Thank you. Mr. Chairman, members of the committee, good afternoon.
The Canadian Police Association welcomes the opportunity to appear before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights concerning Bill . The CPA is the national voice for 54,000 police personnel serving across Canada. Through our 175 member associations, CPA membership includes police personnel serving in police services in Canada's smallest towns and villages as well as those working in our largest municipal cities, provincial police services, members of the RCMP, railway police, and first nations police associations. Our goal is to work with elected officials from all parties to bring about meaningful reforms to enhance the safety and security of all Canadians, including those sworn to protect our communities.
For over a decade, police associations have been advocating reforms to our justice system in Canada. In particular, we have called for changes to bolster the sentencing, detention, and parole of violent offenders.
The Canadian Police Association has been urging governments to bring an end to Canada's revolving-door justice system. Chronic and violent offenders rotate in and out of the correctional and judicial systems, creating a sense of frustration among police personnel, fostering uncertainty and fear in our communities, and putting a significant strain on costs and resources for the correctional and judicial system. We believe that a positive first step to addressing these concerns is to eliminate access to conditional sentences for certain criminals.
Conditional sentencing was introduced in 1996 to bridge the gap between probation and incarceration for less serious, non-violent minor offences. The application of the law by the courts has in fact permitted offenders convicted of serious and violent crimes to avoid incarceration and serve their sentences in the community.
Bill amends section 742.1 of the Criminal Code. It provides that a person convicted of an offence prosecuted by way of indictment, for which the maximum term of imprisonment is 10 years or more, is not eligible for a conditional sentence. Although we support the objectives set out in Bill C-9, we are concerned that the maximum term of imprisonment of 10 years or more would leave out certain offences that should not be eligible for conditional sentencing.
The current law is inadequate. Canadians are acutely aware that current sentencing and parole practices are inconsistent with public expectations, which undermines public confidence in law enforcement and, more particularly, our entire justice system. Canada's front line police officers interact with members of the public and victims of crime on a daily basis. They understand and share in their sense of frustration. People who are introduced to our justice system as witnesses or victims of crime are frequently at a loss to understand the principles and processes applied in sentencing convicted offenders, how the sentences are served, and the opportunities available for early release. We believe that offenders should be held accountable for the offences they commit.
Each victim is equally important. Unfortunately, the current sentencing and conditional release provisions do not recognize this principle. CPA members are very concerned that court decisions applying to current legislation have permitted offenders to receive conditional sentences of imprisonment for crimes of serious violence, including manslaughter, sexual assault offences, driving offences involving death or serious bodily harm, drug trafficking, major theft, and theft committed in the context of a breach of trust.
Canada's police officers are frustrated, and they have lost confidence in a system that sees violent offenders regularly returned to the streets. We need to restore meaningful consequences and deterrents in our justice system, which begins with stiffer sentences, real jail time, and tougher parole eligibility policies for repeat and violent offenders. We raised this issue with the Minister of Public Safety as recently as this month.
These are the recommendations that have been consistently advocated by CPA: first, Parliament should convene an independent public inquiry into Canada's sentencing, corrections, and parole systems for the purpose of identifying measures to provide meaningful consequences for offenders, reinforce public safety, and instill public confidence; second, in determining the level of security for serving sentences, an offender's criminal history in crimes for which he or she is sentenced should be the predominant factor; third, give victims greater input into decisions concerning sentencing, prison classifications, and parole and release; and fourth, tighten our laws and prison policies to protect Canadians from violent criminals.
On limiting access to conditional sentencing, the CPA contends that persons convicted of violent sexual offences or crimes committed where the potential for violence exists should not be given an opportunity to be considered for conditional sentencing. We maintain that sex offences, especially those offences involving children or violence, should be banned from conditional sentencing. For example, criminals convicted of the following offences would not be covered by Bill in the present form: luring a child via the Internet, removing a child from Canada, abduction of a person under the age of 16.
On public safety offences, the CPA is further concerned that offences committed against those sworn to protect our communities, such as the crime of assaulting a police officer, and offences that have serious police officer and public safety consequences, such as flight--failing to stop a motor vehicle while being pursued by a peace officer--are not covered by Bill . This is because the maximum sentence for these offences falls short of the proposed 10-year minimum.
We acknowledge that the current sentencing regime contained in the Criminal Code is at times contradictory and illogical. This serves to further support our contention that the sentencing regime should be reviewed, along with the current corrections and parole systems. We further submit that Bill should be amended to prohibit conditional sentences for the offences of flight, assaulting a police officer, disarming a police officer, and participation in activities of a criminal organization. We contend that any person who chooses to assault peace officers in the lawful performance of their duties or to jeopardize their safety and the safety of others by engaging police in a motor vehicle pursuit should be barred from receiving a conditional sentence.
In addition, Bill does not capture offences involving weapons where the Crown chooses to proceed summarily, such as possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose, possession of a weapon in a motor vehicle, possession of a restricted or prohibited firearm with ammunition, and possession contrary to an order. We contend that a conditional sentence is not an appropriate disposition of a charge involving unlawful possession of a weapon or firearm.
Non-violent offences. The arguments against limiting the use of conditional sentencing for serious non-violent offences are misguided at best. As front-line professionals, police officers see firsthand the far-reaching impact of minimizing the seriousness of property crimes and other so-called non-violent crimes.
The penalties for serious property crimes have become so trivialized, with an absence of meaningful and proportionate consequences, that criminals have come to understand and work within the system, committing more criminal acts. Whether they steal a vehicle or commit a break-and-enter into a home, they know that should they get caught, they will be back out on the street in no time. The lack of meaningful consequences has become so obvious to organized crime that they use it as an effective recruiting tool. The impact on families victimized by such offences is marginalized as it is expected that insurance will cover the monetary costs. Too often, however, the deeper emotional trauma of having a home burglarized, an identity stolen, or a family heirloom taken, are overlooked. In fact, property crimes have become so trivial for criminals and the justice system that police departments have reduced and often cut resources for officers to investigate property crimes, and resources are transferred to the priorities.
A glaring example of this situation is auto theft. Young offenders and car thieves know that there are no meaningful consequences for car theft. They steal cars for cash with little fear of apprehension and even less fear of consequences from the courts.
What is certain, however, is that having someone violate your privacy and having your precious possessions stolen out of your own home is not something trivial for the victims of these crimes. Victims will never feel completely safe in their own homes or in their community from that point on.
Property crimes are often linked with other serious criminal behaviours and social issues, including drug trade, organized crime, and white-collar crime. These are interconnected and cross-cutting issues that cannot, and should not be neglected. Unfortunately, drug trafficking and production offences also fall within the category of “non-violent” offences, which totally ignores the tragic consequences of drug abuse in our communities, and the inextricable link between gang violence and the drug trade. Drug lords and grow operators avoid meaningful consequences through conditional sentences and accelerated parole provisions; provisions originally intended for non-violent crimes. We have seen examples of captured drug traffickers apprehended in the United States seeking extradition to Canada, to take advantage of these lenient sentencing and parole provisions.
Level of supervision. According to the Library of Parliament's legislative summary on Bill C-9, the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics reports that the annual cost of supervising an offender in the community is $1,792. We are concerned that these costs are woefully inadequate given the nature of offenders being released into the community. We would estimate that the current level amounts to less than one hour per week for supervising offenders serving conditional sentences in the community. We contend that the probation and parole officers serving in our communities are seriously understaffed and overworked, minimizing the effect of supervision.
In conclusion, the experience since conditional sentencing was introduced in 1996 demonstrates that the application has far exceeded the intent. Bill is a required measure to tighten these provisions and exclude application to more serious crimes.
We contend that limiting the use of conditional sentencing reduces the risk for communities that continue to be victimized by violent criminals, sexual offenders, and serious invasions of their privacy and intimacy through property crimes. We do, however, recommend that the bill be strengthened by addressing crimes of violence, sexual offences, and serious risks that are not presently contained in the proposed legislation.
In order to provide consistency and balance to this legislation, we would urge Parliament to bring changes to Bill that would reflect the seriousness of certain violent and sexual offences that do not have a maximum term of 10 years or more, while keeping the option of conditional sentencing for less serious crimes for which an alternative sentencing mechanism is appropriate.
Bill is a positive first step to address the revolving-door justice system and instill meaningful and proportionate consequences for serious and violent crimes. The Canadian Police Association supports the bill in principle and urges Parliament to amend and pass this legislation without delay.
I thank you for your attention. I welcome, also, all your questions.
Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, thank you for this invitation and the opportunity to share our thoughts with you.
I welcome the opportunity to discuss Bill C-9 with you. Thank you again for the invitation.
The Association des services de rehabilitation sociale du Québec represents over 50 community organizations actively involved in crime prevention and working with adult offenders in most regions of Quebec.
We want to ensure that a fair balance is struck between the needs of victims in our communities and those of offenders. The association has been in existence for over 40 years, as have some of our organizations. Over fifteen organizations are currently involved in monitoring conditional sentences in the community. We therefore have direct experience with this particular clientele.
The ASRSQ is working with the Elizabeth Fry Society of Québec and Canada as well as defence counsel associations in Montreal and Quebec City to consider the issues raised by . We are pleased to share with you the fruit of our considerations. You have them before you. I will not read the brief in full, but I would like to draw your attention to a few points.
Our brief focuses on the fact that wants to limit eligibility to conditional sentences despite the fact that there is no evidence today to show that that is needed. Conditional sentences seem to work. Judges seem to respect the provisions of the Criminal Code and the limits imposed therein.
Second, access to conditional sentences is being limited based on one sole criteria, in other words maximum sentences provided by the Criminal Code. Very different type of crimes would be treated in the same way. For instance, the possession of counterfeit currency and incest would be treated identically. This would involve one sole criteria, and the use of only one criteria goes against the very principles of sentencing within our justice system.
Third, we believe that conditional sentences are severe. Fourth, they are safe. Fifth, we consider them to be consistent and preventative, and so does the Canadian public in general.
No evidence has been put forward to suggest that the problem the bill aims to correct is widespread. There are no serious studies to show that conditional sentences are a problem today nor that there has been an increase in crime and recidivism.
Sentencing judges must consider the relative seriousness of an offence. They must also consider the dangerousness of the individual. Even though some offences may seem violent, judges must consider both the offence and the offender.
strays from fundamental Canadian sentencing principles such as the use of incarceration as a last resort, proportionality of sentencing based on the seriousness of the offence, the degree of responsibility and the need to tailor sentences to individuals.
The bill could reduce the period of time during which offenders are being monitored. Some studies show that, in some cases, conditional sentences lead to longer prison terms than if the judge had decided to impose a custodial sentence.
Take, for instance, a person who is in prison for one year. Under the law they are released without being monitored after having served two thirds of their sentences.
Conditional sentencees, however, must complete the entire year of their sentence and the monitoring period lasts twelve months.
By providing identical treatment for offences like the possession of counterfeit currency and incest, as I stated it earlier, the bill contributes to a growing sense of confusion about the notions of seriousness and dangerousness. We do not believe that reducing access to conditional sentences will make our communities safer. On the contrary, over the medium and longer term, the safety of our communities could be jeopardized.
Allow me to explain. Some people today could be entitled to a conditional sentence, but would not be under Bill . The economic and social impact of that would be significant. Jobs could be lost, families could be shattered, etc.
We therefore believe that this bill is unnecessary. We do however believe more studies should be undertaken on conditional sentences since their inception. This will allow for better understanding of the issue and an accurate assessment of the effect of conditional sentences over the last few years.
According to the experience of workers within our community network, the conditional sentencees they work with are not necessarily violent people. They successfully complete their conditional sentences and, when they do not, it is because of breach of conditions rather than recidivism.
So, what is the problem? That is the question we have been asking ourselves. We believe that further study, or even larger studies than those we currently have access to, should be carried out before any changes are made to the system.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and members of the committee, for having given me this opportunity to speak to you.
Thank you, Mr. Chair and members of the committee.
I want to thank the committee for giving us the opportunity to comment on Bill C-9.
I'm here speaking today on behalf of the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network. You may be wondering at first glance why it is that an AIDS organization is concerned about this legislation. I hope that by the end of our time today you may have some sense of why we think this is a dimension of this legislation that the committee needs to grapple with as you go forward in your deliberations.
First, briefly let me tell you about our organization, the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network. We are a national non-governmental organization, one of approximately 10 in this country that work in partnership with the federal government and other orders of government to respond to the AIDS epidemic in Canada. Over 14 years we've become one of the world's leading organizations working on legal and policy issues related to HIV.
We have over 200 members across the country and some internationally, many of them AIDS service organizations that are based in the community and are working on the front lines of the response to the AIDS epidemic. It's because of that particular expertise and those particular concerns that we're here today.
In brief, we're concerned that there may be some unintended consequences—or we would hope they are unintended consequences—of this legislation that need to be considered as it moves forward. We are concerned in particular that Bill may in fact be counterproductive and may undermine some of the efforts to respond to the HIV epidemic among some of those Canadians who are most vulnerable to HIV—who are most vulnerable in the sense of being socially and economically marginalized and who will, we fear, because of that, as I will explain in a moment, bear the brunt in particular of this kind of legislative approach.
For many years now, Canada has recognized in its stated policy that the issue of problematic substance use is a health issue first and foremost rather than an issue to be dealt with via the criminal law and law enforcement.
Unfortunately the rhetorical commitment to dealing with this as a health issue, which has also been accompanied by a rhetorical commitment to dealing with HIV through measures that are shown by the evidence to be effective and in ways that actually respect and protect human rights, has not always been reflected in the actual practice, certainly at the federal government level, in the response to drugs in Canada.
It's particularly the application of Bill to drug offences that we are speaking about today; we're not offering any comment on any other aspects of this legislation.
When I say that this stated commitment to dealing with substance use as a health issue rather than a criminal law issue has not been reflected in the practice of the government's response, I want to recall to you that a few years ago, in 2001, the Auditor General issued a report on the spending at the level of the federal government in response to drugs, which was around $500 million. She reported at that time that almost 95% of that money was spent on law enforcement and criminal justice expenditures, notwithstanding the fact that Canada has repeatedly said we have a so-called “balanced” approach to responding to problematic drug use in Canada that includes not only law enforcement as one of the four pillars, but the three other pillars of measures to prevent drug misuse, to provide treatment for those with addiction and other problematic substance use, and to adopt proven and well-studied harm reduction measures, including things such as needle exchange programs.
Unfortunately now, in our view, with this legislation we are not moving in the right direction. We are in fact risking exaggerating the existing imbalance within the federal government's response to drugs. I want to urge upon this committee that you take some time after the comments you hear today to think about how this legislation may play out in the context of drug offences, and about what ultimately that means in terms of impact upon the health of some of Canada's most vulnerable and marginalized people and the public health more broadly.
Before this legislation was introduced, when it was something being contemplated, we put out a briefing paper that speaks in general terms of the notion of mandatory minimum sentences being applied to drug offences. We have tried to highlight why this is not necessarily good justice policy or good public health policy, particularly with a focus on an effective response to the HIV epidemic among people who use drugs. That briefing paper, I believe, has been shared with committee members. If it has not yet, we will make sure that it is. But since the bill was tabled and we've seen the actual provisions in the bill, we've prepared the additional brief that you have before you today, which looks specifically at how Bill will apply to offences under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.
In our view, Bill is a form—it's a variant—of mandatory minimum sentences; that is, Bill C-9 does not specify that if you commit x offence, you must spend a minimum y number of years or you must be subject to such and such a minimum sentence. It does, however, say in its removal of the availability of conditional sentences for some of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act offences that if you commit those offences, a conditional sentence will no longer be an option if the sentence imposed is a term of imprisonment; that is, it mandates that a sentence of imprisonment be served in a correctional facility rather than a conditional sentence. So it mandates a certain minimum level of harshness of penalty, if you will.
There are two things I want to say specifically about how the legislation will apply to drug offences.
The first is a positive feature of the legislation, although I think it's really more a happy happenstance of the legislation in the way it's drafted. Simple possession offences under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act would not be covered by Bill , and therefore, conditional sentencing would still be an option available to the court, assuming of course that the other criteria set out in the Criminal Code have been satisfied. This, in our view, is the silver lining in legislation that is, on balance, problematic.
Let me give you another example of how this legislation will apply to drug offences and why we think it's particularly problematic, and that is specifically the question of the offences of trafficking and possession for the purposes of trafficking. Why is it that we say that it would be problematic to apply Bill , that is, to withdraw conditional sentences in the event of someone charged with a trafficking offence under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act? There are a number of reasons for this.
The first is that, although it might be tempting to pretend that we can fairly simplistically target just so-called drug dealers and somehow not bring to bear the full weight of the criminal law against people who are simply drug users and who are dealing with addictions, and to think that therefore this is consistent with the notion that we deal with drug offences and drug misuse as principally a health issue rather than a criminal issue, it's not that simple to actually differentiate. In fact, the way the legislation is drafted right now, it would mean that someone convicted of trafficking any quantity of, for example, heroin, even someone who is in possession of a fairly small amount and is perhaps sharing that with someone else in their drug-using network, would not be able, if a sentence of imprisonment is ordered by the court, to serve that sentence in the community.
We're mandating sending people to prison for offences that are not necessarily a violent offence and that involve perhaps trafficking even very small quantities. In fact, there is evidence, including Canadian evidence from the largest cohort of injection drug users who have been studied over many years in Vancouver, to show that a significant number of people who are users by injection of certain controlled substances have also in fact engaged in small-scale, street-level dealing, often to support their habit. It's those people in particular who are going to be most easily targeted for law enforcement efforts and most likely to be caught up and charged with trafficking offences. They would also be the people who would therefore be most likely to be sentenced to spend time in prison if a conditional sentence were not available for someone convicted of trafficking. It would be rare that in fact it is the real profiteers, those who are engaged in very large-scale trafficking of drugs--criminal organizations and so on--who would actually be caught by the trafficking offences.
What we've seen amongst drug users in the Vancouver cohort, for example, is that a significant number of them have engaged in direct selling of small quantities of drugs, again to support a habit, or they've engaged in what's called “middling”, that is, carrying small quantities, or what is called “steering”, that is, directing someone to a dealer where they can purchase the drugs they're needing. Those kinds of things could all fall within the definition of trafficking of a controlled substance under the CDSA, and as a result, given that the penalties for trafficking set out in the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act would be caught by this 10-year threshold in Bill , we would lose the opportunity for conditional sentencing of those cases.
I think it's also very important to understand that of those people who use drugs, who have also engaged in these “trafficking activities”, it's predominantly those who have the highest levels of addiction who have been involved in these things.
The study that will be published fairly shortly from Vancouver finds that the involvement in this small-scale, low-level street dealing of drugs has been associated with the frequency of heroin or cocaine injection, binge drug use, borrowing and lending of syringes, accidental overdose, and recent incarceration. All of those are markers of a higher intensity of addiction, so in effect we're talking about targeting people who are users, many of them with addictions, with this kind of legislation.
I'm not suggesting that's necessarily the purpose behind this legislation, but it is a consequence of this legislation of which the committee should be mindful.
I mentioned that incarceration was one of the factors associated with those who had engaged in small-scale street-level trafficking, and that leads me to a point about why it's bad public health policy to actually be incarcerating people who are drug users. No one, including Correctional Service Canada, disputes that drugs are in prisons. This is a reality in every country in the world, and there's no dispute that prisoners are injecting drugs in prison.
Over a decade ago, Correctional Service Canada reported that 40% of federal inmates admitted using drugs in prison, 11% of them by injection. What we also know, of course, is that there is little or no access to sterile injection equipment in prison, so we're sentencing people with addictions to drugs, many of them who use their drugs by injection, to a setting in which they're engaged in drug use in one of the riskiest ways possible because they can't actually get sterile injection equipment, even though we've had very successful needle exchange programs operating across Canada for over 20 years now. Time and time again, in Canada and around the world, every single study that has looked at needle exchange programs has concluded that this is one of the most important interventions in responding to HIV and the spread of other blood-borne diseases among people who inject drugs.
I think our police officers experience that almost every day. We see more and more violent crimes. What we used to see on American TV shows about street gangs was happening only in the States. It's happening in Canada now. But why? Those are realities. Go to Winnipeg and Montreal and Vancouver and Toronto. And it's not only in those large cities. You see it more and more even in small cities.
When you go to a crime scene, you see the victim and understand what's going through her mind, what she's going through. You know that she's going to have to go to court, and you know by experience, with the way the courts handle those cases, that it's going to be a slap on the hand. He's going to be back on the street and he's going to be in the same neighbourhood, threatening and laughing at them. That's the other thing the victims are telling us, that they're being told, hey, I'm back here and I didn't get anything. They laugh at the victims.
Those are serious things. We need deterrents. When you commit a crime and you have a consequence, it's different. Look at what happened in Quebec. Everybody in Canada thought that Quebec had thrown in the towel with the bikers. What happened? They changed the legislation--stiffer sentencing, stiffer legislation--and created a special unit, Carcajou/Wolverine. What happened to them? They're all in jail. That was significant. It destabilized the organized crime, the bikers.
That's the way to do it, because there was a deterrent. Before that, how many young kids dreamed that one day they would become bikers because they thought that nothing could happen to them? Well, this is the message we have to send to the communities, to Canadian citizens--we're there to protect them. And you, as legislators, have to send that message. But if it's a message of a revolving door, that they'll never get anything.... Even though your intention was very good in 1996, it's not happening that way. Why? There's always the economic factor. How much is it going to cost us to put this person in jail? Well, do you know what's going to happen? The same person who thinks nothing can happen to them is going to commit and recommit again and again, so it's going to cost how much more to get police officers to arrest them so many times and get so many victims.
Our job is to protect and serve Canadian citizens. That's what we want to do. But we need help, and the only ones who can help us are you.
Yes. I'd like to make a comment concerning supervision. I take exception to the fact that it's considered a joke. In preparation for this appearance today, yesterday we met with two front line workers who work with conditional releasees to verify, at least empirically, some of the things we thought we saw in reality.
One of the things we found is that these two front line workers, who have been doing this for over six years and have seen dozens and dozens of conditional releasees, do not consider that the clients are violent. They feel that the judges and prosecutors have done their jobs in terms of eliminating people who are really violent offenders.
Secondly, when it comes to supervision, in a lot of cases, when a person comes out on conditional release, there is what we call in French assignation à résidence, or house arrest as you say in English. In that case, in Quebec in any case, the system is such that the supervisor is not alone in the verification process. There is also what we call an agent du Service correctionnel, better known as a guard, who is working in the community. They are verifying, either by telephone or with visits to the home--five, six, seven times a week at all hours of the day--to make sure the person is respecting his or her conditions. Believe me, the meetings with the supervisor are more than just once a month.
What we also heard yesterday from our front line workers is that in certain cases conditional release was considered harder than a sentence of incarceration--for example, wives were complaining that they were sick and tired of getting phone calls and visits at all hours of the day. It is a very serious process.
I take exception to the fact that supervision is not important and that there's an image that violent offenders are being released on conditional release. The fact that a person commits a crime that is considered violent does not make that person a violent offender, unless there is an evaluation of that person in addition to the offence.
I would have liked to hear—and I was sure or almost sure that I would—some of you provide us with statistics, and answers to our questions. I will not repeat what my colleague Mr. Ménard said a few moments ago, but I would like to clear one thing up immediately: the Canadian Police Association has to understand that it is not the legislators who have broadened the scope of conditional sentencing. If you do not understand that, then we will explain it to you.
I think that you should ask your lawyers to read the Supreme Court's Proulx decision from the year 2000. If you had read it, you would have understood that it is the Supreme Court that explained, in a decision that cannot be appealed, the scope of conditional sentences.
As legislators, we want to know whether or not conditional sentencing has met the expectations that the public had in 1996. I look at the Canadian Police Association's statistics and I see some very good and very interesting examples. From what I found, there were 257,127 convictions. If, like myself, you know how to count, then you will note that there were only 13,267 conditional sentences in 2003. I have right in front of me the figures for that pivotal year, so do not try to make me believe that the justice system has become a revolving door through which you enter and exit. You will never succeed in making me believe that.
We are here to amend the Criminal Code. I agree that we need to respect the victims, but in this case we are dealing with the criminals. I want to be shown—and up to date I have not been—that conditional sentencing is useless and inappropriate and that it has not contributed at all to reducing crime levels in Canada.
My question is for Mr. Altimas. Through the Association des services de réhabilitation sociale du Québec, could you, over the next few weeks, obtain statistics on the number of people who were given a conditional sentence of imprisonment? I was a lawyer, up until only 20 months ago. Given the number of CRCs that you have, I think that you could obtain those statistics, even if you had to write them out by hand.
I also have a question for the Canadian Police Association. Could you honestly get us statistics on failures? You have police officers on the ground. I cannot believe that you would not be able to obtain statistics on those failures. We will deal with the successes; what we want are statistics related to cases where conditional sentencing failed, where files were reopened.
It is a yes or a no. Can you get those figures over the next few weeks? My question is for Mr. Altimas and Mr. Cannavino.
First of all, I want to thank you all for being here today. Mr. Cannavino, I see you have not changed and that you are quite able to defend your positions.
I will start with a brief introduction and then I will ask a question of Mr. Cusson and Mr. Altimas, who will undoubtedly be able to answer.
I am certain you saw as well as I did yesterday on TV that the Pierre-Elliott-Trudeau International Airport in Montreal is literally a funnel for drugs and that personnel there, police officers and civilians, are being bribed. They are afraid of drug pushers. You seem to have a positive view of conditional sentences. We know that airport staff are afraid of drug traffickers.
Could you explain to me why correctional services officers who on a daily basis are responsible for supervising people involved in the drug trade, hard drugs and otherwise, are being bribed? Perhaps they are afraid. You have no statistics on that.
The only thing we do know is that it costs approximately 20¢ an hour to monitor drug traffickers outside of jail. Drugs, on the face of it, are not dangerous, but let us not forget that in Columbia and Afghanistan, growers are gunned down with machine guns because we buy drugs. That is the “not in my backyard“ effect. We must put an end to it. It is not because the issue is not serious here that it is not elsewhere. Today, in Venezuela and in Afghanistan, people are getting killed because we are buying their drugs. That is just not right.
I learned one thing from my practice, which I would like to share with you. In Mr. Elliott's brief, which was read earlier on, we see that 40% more drugs are making their way into the jails. Imagine what it is like when you are not in jail! When you are not in jail, how many drugs are getting in? That is what I would like to know from you.
We are close to our constituents, we work for good honest people, people like you and me, and for the victims, because we all have family members who were victims. Is it normal to imagine that for serious crimes, when someone is behind bars... There is already a 40%t higher probability that drugs are going to get in, but it is not 100% more, because the people who are monitoring these offenders, that we have been referring to from the beginning, do $1,792 worth of monitoring per year, in other words 20¢ per hour. If you think that these people are not afraid of drug dealers and that there is no chance of their being bought, you are living in some alternate reality. At the Pierre-Elliott-Trudeau International Airport in Montreal, they make approximately $30,000 per year, they have a few duties to carry out, they are being bribed and they are afraid.
I would like to know your position on this. How can you try to convince me to accept your position rather than that which is set out in Bill C-9?
Rolling on, I'd like to take exception to the comments made by Mr. Moore. In fact, we share boundaries, and I care as much about the people who are broken into on one side of Whitepine Road as those on the other—and it is about the victims.
I would like to steer the discussion about the victims to Mr. Cannavino. What we are trying to suggest based on some of the actual evidence in the study we received the other day, the statistics suggesting that the chances of a criminal offending the same victim again, or another victim, are perhaps less if the conditional sentencing regime was kept, modified, or at least not completely thrown away?
Although that evidence might be flawed—and I invite you to take a look at it—in general it suggests that people who are given a sentence and incarcerated spend on average 47 days under supervision, because they are in the slammer, while people who get a conditional sentences have an average of 256 days of ordered supervision. I understand there is some dispute as to the level of that supervision and what you get for your money, but the claws of justice are over the offender for longer.
The other step is that I am going to try to encourage you to perhaps enlighten us more on what you see out there. The other statistic is that with respect to offenders who get conditional sentences, well over 50% are first offenders. Notwithstanding that there are some serious crimes, obviously a judge, given that discretion, has said, well, this person might not likely reoffend if I give these conditions.
Is there any merit to that? You're front line. I have tonnes of respect for police officials. I was the mayor of a city and a commissioner of a police board for six years. You are front line justice officials; you're there. But is there anything you can help us with to determine that some conditional sentences are worth keeping, because 50% are first offenders? Secondly, if there's a resource issue, if the $1,700 offends you—and I know police officials are often talking about resources: problem-oriented policing, getting into the schools, and having more police officers as a deterrent presence—if it's about resources, about the $2,400 per supervision, then tell us. This is another aspect that we can cut into the $13 billion we gave them last year to do the right thing.
Can you help us at all?
Thanks for coming, everyone.
There's one statistic that I'm pretty well aware of. We talk a lot about statistics here, wanting information. I've been here 13 years, and some of my other colleagues have been here as long as I have. We'll remember some stats.
I remember in early 1994, somewhere around then--I know Mr. Lee would be well aware of this--there was a woman by the name of Priscilla de Villiers, who was the president of victims of crime. We tabled over two million signatures--2,400,000, if I'm not mistaken--in this Parliament to clamp down on criminals and get tough on crime. Ever since that petition was tabled there have been hundreds and hundreds, thousands and thousands more signatures all indicating the same thing.
Those are stats that we have records of, petitions that have come to this place. Those people who are petitioning this government to do something about it are the taxpayers out there paying for a system that they're very disappointed in. That's a stat that nobody can argue with.
Not only that, these victim organizations are gaining numbers in membership every day that we prolong it. It isn't decreasing, because the people who are paying for the system are not being satisfied.
Bill was an attempt to answer that, and I think everybody pretty well liked the idea of making this kind of bill happen. Of course, as you said, Mr. Cannavino, it turned into the rule instead of the exception.
Mr. Altimas, I'm really surprised to hear the statement from you that just because a person did a violent crime, it doesn't mean he is violent. I'm sure glad I didn't take that attitude when I was principal of a school, because when a child committed a violent act against another child, it immediately told me that if this person is capable of committing such an event, he obviously would be capable of doing it again some time in the future. So you have to take action.
I agree with Mr. Elliott. There's another stat. Go to any penitentiary and ask the warden what their policy on drugs is. Zero tolerance; that's the policy. Isn't that what you always hear when you go to a penitentiary?
I've enjoyed the presentations today. They add depth to the statistical information we got in our last couple of meetings.
Mr. Cannavino, the anecdotes you used were, from my point of view, a little unhelpful, but I understand that they come from the street, where the police officer has a job to do. Their goal is to put the bad guy away so the street will be a safer place. I understand that.
Mr. Moore took a shot at what he referred to as the opposition when he spoke of their not paying much attention to victims. But in fairness, Mr. Moore, this committee, on a non-partisan basis in the mid-nineties, wrote the book on victims and victims' rights, in large measure with help from the Canadian Police Association, which has for many years funded an office for victims' rights.
So this isn't a partisan thing. One could argue that the amendments being proposed to the conditional sentencing provisions will reduce the amenities available to victims in sentencing. Conditional sentencing, the way it's framed, allows components of restitution and reconciliation involving victims. If we're just going to put them away in the slammer, there'll be less recognition of this.
Mr. Cannavino says that guys are showing up on the street before the police have done the paperwork. In fairness, Mr. Cannavino, wouldn't you agree that an offender can end up on the street during judicial interim release on bail before conviction? After conviction, pending sentencing or an appeal, the judge can put him back on the street.
So there are lots of reasons why a victim can see a perpetrator, an offender, or a convicted person back on the street. It may be distasteful, but it's not always because of some failure of the conditional sentencing regime. Wouldn't you agree with that?
When we're talking about the way criminals exploit the system and the flaws in the system, it's unbelievable. They're experts in that. Plus they have the defence attorneys. They pay big money just to make sure that.... I'm sorry Mr. Lemay isn't here, because he was one of those strong defence lawyers. You too? I'm sorry. But the thing is, that's their job, to find some flaws in the legislation or in the Criminal Code and exploit it. They're entitled to a defence, and that's their job.
I'll give you an example of a case we had here in Canada, the Erez case. That person was convicted of trafficking drugs in the United States and got 15 years. Here, the maximum was 10 years. So he asked to come and serve his sentence in Canada. When he came here, because it's considered non-violent here and the time he spent in the United States was considered, he stayed here two months. Two months, and then he was released because it was considered a non-violent crime. One month after he was released, he got shot in a hotel in Toronto, during a drug deal at the Harbour Castle.
That's one case. There are a lot of those cases. That's the example. Bill for us is one good step in the right direction. We're not here advocating that there should never be any conditional sentencing. The only thing we want to make sure of is that.... The ones included in Bill C-9 we think are very good, and we suggest legislators also add some more, considering what kind of crimes they are. That is the way we see Bill C-9, as the first good step in the right direction, even though in 1996 the intentions were good from the House of Commons.
The other point about how much it costs for monitoring or supervising those people, which I think is $1,700, is that it's a multi-pronged approach we need to have there. It's not only adding or doubling the amount; they have to have more resources. As I said, when you call one of them, you don't have a clue where they are, because of the transfers of calls. They could be anywhere in Canada or in the United States. Why? Because you transfer your house phone to your cell number, and they'll never know that it was a transfer of a call. So you would think he's at home and he'll probably say yes, he's at home, he's in his living room, because he knows you're not going to knock at the door. It never happens, or it happens once in so many times that he's going to take the risk.
The other thing is that they have to go every Friday and sign in at the police station. It takes about 30 seconds. He goes there. He's still in the area, so he signs in, as it was indicated in the sentence that he has to go to the police station.
So those are things that I think we have to review. That's why we're asking. I talked to the public safety minister maybe two weeks ago, saying we're hoping that this review will be announced very soon, because it is serious. And I think it goes in the way that we see with Bill and other bills, talking about mandatory minimum sentencing. So as I said, it's multi-pronged, but it's step by step. We need many tools.