Thank you, Mr. Chair, for the invitation to come and speak to you about Bill . I'm happy to be here.
First, I'll give you a bit of background. The John Howard Society is a national charity made up of organizations that work with offenders to help them reintegrate into the society as law-abiding citizens. We have about 12,000 members across Canada who are engaged with us.
I'd like to acknowledge that the debate with respect to conditional sentencing is an appropriate one. It's very important for Parliament to be actively engaged in decisions about the use of discretion, and particularly judicial discretion, in sentencing. And the second point is that we're pleased to see that the bill before us, while it tries to restrict the use of conditional sentence, does not challenge its purpose or its objectives.
The question before us, as we see it, is a fairly simple one. The question is whether it is ever justified to give a conditional sentence for an offence where the maximum prison term permitted by the Criminal Code is ten years or more. If it is justified, then Bill , which precludes conditional sentences in every such case, is excessive.
I'd like to talk to the question of the justification, and will do so, but I'd like to begin by just pointing out that over the last 30 years Canada and the United States have been engaged in a very substantial experiment in justice. Thirty years ago, in 1974, the incarceration rate in Canada was 90 per 100,000, and in the United States it was 149--very similar. Thirty years later, the incarceration rate in Canada is 108, up slightly, while the incarceration rate in the United States is 749. It's a 600-times increase in incarceration.
Over those years, crime has gone up and crime has gone down in both countries, largely in unison. In fact, if you look at murder, which is the best recorded, the murder rate in both countries has gone up and down dramatically over those 30 years at the same time, in spite of the fact we've got very different criminal justice systems.
No one benefits from inflated incarceration rates. Canada is much better off than the U.S., where enormous resources are diverted to maintain an inflated rate of imprisonment, while factors relating to their higher violent crime rates have largely gone unaddressed. The reason for Canada's lower incarceration rate is largely sentencing policy that guides sentences so they are proportional to the gravity of the offence and the degree of the responsibility of the offender, and are based on a presumption that the least intrusive measure will be used.
This raises the question: why have a principle of least intrusive measures? The reason is that no other principle makes sense. I had a conversation with one of the past commissioners of the Correctional Services of Canada, who was telling me of a situation in which their principle of using no more force than necessary was being questioned as to whether it was too soft, and his response was to say that we could change that, we could change it to use just a bit more force than necessary.
When we don't have the notion of the least intrusive measure, then we inevitably start moving towards a chaotic system. Least intrusive measure is not the same as popular levels of intrusive measures. When the level of intrusiveness satisfies everyone, then the harshest penalties become the norm.
The implications of least intrusive measure, if we're to have sentencing based on that principle, is that each case must be assessed individually before a sentence is passed; and secondly, options must exist that are less intrusive than is the norm for such offences generally.
Bill attacks these notions directly by precluding conditional sentences where the maximum term is ten years or more, and in so doing it precludes individualized assessments in the least serious cases or where the mitigating factors are strongest.
Secondly, it really prevents the courts from being able to justify and explain the sentences they pass, other than with reference to the legislation. The existing legislated limitations on conditional sentences, along with the substantial direction from the Supreme Court, are serious limitations. These limitations are reflected in the fact that only 6% of all convicted cases receive a conditional sentence. The existing restrictions effectively avoid the use of conditional sentences in clearly inappropriate situations, while avoiding rigid and arbitrary measures that conflict with the principles of sentencing.
Today, conditional sentences are being used cautiously and in appropriate cases. More than 50% of the cases are summary offences, only 47% are indictable, and the terms of sentences for conditional sentences are double those of prison terms that people might get. So they're being used cautiously. They're also being used in conjunction with penalties that make them very firm and punitive.
Finally, where cases arise that seem to be inappropriate, we have an appeal system of courts right to the Supreme Court. They have been active, they have reversed decisions, and they've added considerably to the limitations that are placed on conditional sentences. It's a system, I think, that works; it's also open and visible.
Our courts have acted responsibly, but our courts can not speak for themselves. Courts do not engage in public debate about their sentences, and therefore I think are easy targets. Bill promotes distrust in our judiciary, and that has serious consequences that must also be considered. If we cannot trust the courts with conditional sentence decisions, then where can we trust them?
Using a ten-year maximum term as the point of ineligibility will only introduce new areas of unfairness, without an appeal process to address those circumstances. The Canadian Sentencing Commission characterized the maxima in criminal justice as “unrealistic” and “disorderly”. They went on to say, “Little guidance for anyone can be expected from these maxima.” Presumably “anyone” includes Parliament.
Is it really that hard to imagine situations where a conditional sentence is appropriate for a theft over $5,000, for the theft of computer services, for theft of a credit card, for a break and enter, possession of break and enter instruments, or theft from the mail? Could we not imagine some circumstances where those would be appropriate?
In brief, it is our view that the purpose and principles of sentencing found within section 718 of the Criminal Code are substantially correct and should not be ignored or interfered with. The sentencing courts, with reviews through appeal up to the Supreme Court of Canada, are competent and the only bodies capable of establishing appropriate and just sentences.
Public confidence in conditional sentencing can not be achieved over the longer term through measures that depend on arbitrary and rigid sentencing rules such as those proposed by Bill . Further, it's our view that research over many years has demonstrated that the deterrent effect of higher penalties is very unlikely to have a significant impact on crime rates generally, and particularly unlikely to have an impact on those who are typically being given conditional sentences.
The impact of Bill will be disproportionately felt by vulnerable people, based on income, class, ethnicity rights, and other factors beyond their control. The public perception of the justice system will be distorted by having discretion moved from the courts and judges to the prosecutors, for the decisions will not be apparent and will be melded into plea bargaining situations that are already viewed critically by many in the public.
Court proceedings and trials will become very expensive, consuming a great deal of time. Prison costs will go up substantially, particularly for provincial and territorial institutions, with estimates of as many as 4,000 or up to a 20% increase in provincial incarceration rights, in institutions that are probably the worst institutions in Canada. They're the most crowded, they have the fewest programs and services, and are the most dangerous in many respects. Many don't meet the minimum UN standards on the conditions of imprisonment.
Equally troubling is the substantial amount of money that would be spent with respect to this bill that represents lost opportunities in other areas, such as prevention and treatment, where it could be spent much more effectively to reduce crime generally.
It's our position that sentencing is an individual process that must reflect the specifics of the offence and the offender. The courts must have a full range of options available and the discretion to choose those that are most appropriate.
Conditional sentences cannot be applied fairly or appropriately under the restrictions proposed by Bill . While some direction on the use of conditional sentences is appropriate, those limits should not undermine the good purposes of conditional sentences or unreasonably restrict the courts from using this option in appropriate situations in order to remain consistent with the fundamental principles of sentencing.
We do not believe that inflexible sentencing provisions can make the system more appropriate, effective, or principled. Our recommendation, therefore, is that Bill be withdrawn or, in the alternative, that measures intended to give greater guidance to the courts in the use of conditional sentence be consistent with the fundamental principles of sentencing. This would mean that the guidelines would be presumptive or advisory, but not mandatory.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I am Assistant Director of the Montreal Police Service. With me today is Mr. Clayton Pecknold, Deputy Constable of the Saanich Police Service, in British Columbia.
We are appearing before you today as representatives of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police. We are both Vice-Chairs of the CACP's Legislative Amendments Committee.
I also want to take this opportunity to convey greetings from our President, Mr. Jack Ewatski, who is the Chief of Police for the City of Winnipeg.
The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police represents the leadership of Canada's law enforcement agencies. Ninety per cent of its members are directors, assistant directors or other senior officers with a variety of municipal, provincial or federal police forces in Canada.
Our Association's mission is to promote effective enforcement of Canadian and provincial laws and regulations for the purpose of protecting the safety of all Canadians. Thus we are regularly called upon to take a position on legislative reforms. We are always enthusiastic participants, along with government officials, in consultations concerning criminal law reform, just as we are doing today before this Committee.
I will now turn it over to my colleague, Mr. Pecknold, to present our views on Bill . He will be making his comments in English. Following that, I will have some closing remarks.
Good afternoon, Mr. Chair and honourable members. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak to you today.
Many of you will know that the CACP appears before your committee and before the Senate on a wide range of bills. Generally speaking, we tend to appear on bills that consist of amendments to substantive offences and those affecting police powers. However, while Bill deals solely with the matter of sentencing, we do have some comments that we hope will be of assistance to you.
We understand you have a busy session ahead of you, with many bills. I would like to take the opportunity to give you a snapshot of our association's overall view of criminal law reform.
With respect to Bill C-9, the proposed changes to the scope of the conditional sentence orders, the CACP supports the bill and believes that conditional sentence orders are an inappropriate response to violent or other serious crime. We would, however, offer two points for consideration.
The first point is with respect to the scope of the bill. The background material published on the parliamentary website suggests that some criticism of the bill has stated that by placing the eligibility for CSOs at indictable offences carrying a ten-year or greater penalty, the bill captures offences that are not offences of violence or otherwise considered serious. I think we heard my friend from the John Howard Society refer to that. From our point of view, we suggest the opposite is also true, in that one offence in particular is excluded from the scope of the amendment. That is subsection 467.11, which provides a five-year penalty for those convicted or participating in activities of a criminal organization. On the other hand, the other two criminal organization offences, subsection 467.12, commission of an offence for a criminal organization, and subsection 467.13, instructing commission of an offence for criminal organization, are covered by the amendment, as they carry a maximum penalty in excess of ten years.
The CACP is of the view and our organized crime committee is of the view that this is an anomalous result and that CSO should be unavailable for any offence involving a criminal organization. We need hardly remind this honourable committee of the serious threat organized crime poses to the safety and security of Canadians. We respectfully suggest, therefore, that the Canadian public would find the use of the CSO for persons participating in the activity of a criminal organization contrary to a favourable view of the criminal justice system.
This is not to say, however, that we object to the manner in which the bill is drafted. If Parliament is inclined to agree with us on the matter, we would further respectfully caution against an amendment that creates schedules or lists of offences. As the CACP has observed before, the criminal law, and most especially the Criminal Code, has gradually increased in its complexity such as to make it virtually unfathomable in places. Instead, we would suggest an amendment that specifically ensures that all offences committed by a criminal organization are ineligible for CSO.
Our second comment is more general in nature and falls along with the comments on the complexity of the criminal law and the public's general faith in the justice system.
This bill is arguably one of the least complex, in terms of its drafting, that we have seen in recent years. However, while Bill is not particularly complex, the law of sentencing in the Criminal Code is. As with many aspects of the Criminal Code, the CACP believes that quick fixes and band-aids are no longer sufficient. We believe two things: first, that the criminal law, including the law of sentencing, is in need of a sustained and comprehensive overhaul if the criminal justice system is to regain the eroding confidence of the public; second, that your policing community is well situated to provide meaningful participation and input.
Let me state clearly that this is not an indictment from your police about the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Clearly, the charter has had an enormous impact on the way the police must do their job and how a criminal trial is conducted. Policing is a much more complex activity than it was before the charter, but so is the world in general, and we recognize that. It is the fundamental duty of all police officers to uphold respect for the law, and this applies with particular certainty to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Police in a democratic society must always be subject to the rule of law, and this is a value the CACP holds dear. However, we do believe that the legislative response to landmark charter decisions has been overly procedurally complex in such a way as to multiply the on-the-street impact of charter decisions to a point, perhaps, not envisioned by the Supreme Court. An example that comes immediately to mind is the addition of subsections 25.1 and 25.2 of the code, in response to the Supreme Court of Canada decision in Campbell and Shirose. This amendment created a procedural regime that in practice has been very challenging to implement with consistency across the country.
To be frank, we have found it difficult to understand how and when this trend to undue complexity found root with the drafters of our criminal law. We intend to take every opportunity to advocate before you and the public for less complexity and more common sense in legislative drafting. I add parenthetically that these are points we make with justice officials frequently in our consultations.
In brief, therefore, we would offer our endorsement of the bill with the strong request that no CSO be available for offences involving organized crime. We would also ask that as this committee moves forward with its work you would consider the context in which the criminal laws must, as a matter of practice, be workable. You need not be reminded, I'm sure, that it is your police who must find their way through an increasingly complex society, using only those tools you allow them to keep, in order to keep the public safe.
For our part, the CACP will continue to offer you the voice of Canadian police leadership as you move forward with your work on this bill and on the many others to come.
Thank you for the opportunity to comment.
I'll ask my colleague to conclude.
Good afternoon, Mr. Chairperson and members of the committee.
The Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime, or CRCVC, is a national non-profit victim advocacy group for crime victims. We provide direct assistance to crime victims dealing with the criminal justice system as well as advocate for justice reform to better protect their rights and prevent victimization.
The CRCVC is pleased to take part in the debate over Bill . The proposed change to section 742.1 of the Criminal Code will address concerns that victims of serious and violent crime have expressed to our organization on numerous occasions. These concerns predominantly surround the distress and unease that they feel when they see offenders, not only those who perpetrated their own victimization but also those who commit other serious crimes, sentenced to house arrest, penalties that are not proportionate to the gravity of the offence committed. We believe that the elimination of access to conditional sentences for serious and/or violent crime addresses some of these concerns.
Conditional sentences were introduced in 1996 and allowed for certain sentences of imprisonment to be served in the community or under house arrest. These sentences are neither incarceration nor probation, but fall in between the two. The theory behind the sentencing provisions was that offenders who commit less serious non-violent offences may serve their sentence in the community, avoiding incarceration. They remain under supervision and have restrictions on their freedom and mobility. Conditional sentencing provisions do achieve this end, but some offenders have been receiving conditional sentences for more serious offences, including serious assaults, sexual assaults, and driving offences that result in death or serious harm.
As you're aware, there are several criteria that must be met for an offender to be eligible for a conditional sentence; these are set out in the provisions from 1996. We have seen that these criteria have not sufficiently restricted access to conditional sentences for the offenders who commit the serious and violent offences, who include repeat offenders.
Bill seeks to address this discrepancy by adding another restriction, focusing on the type of crime that is eligible for house arrest. The amendment to section 742.1 provides that offences tried by way of indictment for which the maximum term of imprisonment is ten years or more are ineligible for a conditional sentence. As such, the CRCVC supports the underlying goal of Bill C-9, but has reservations that the criteria for eliminating access to conditional sentences--that the offence carry a maximum term of imprisonment of ten years or more and be tried by indictment--will leave certain serious and/or violent offences still eligible for a conditional sentence. It also leaves hybrid offences that are ineligible for house arrest if tried by indictment eligible if tried summarily. These offences include sexual assault and criminal harassment.
The CRCVC believes that serious and/or violent offences, especially those that victimize children or other vulnerable people, should not be eligible for a conditional sentence. Of particular concern to our organization are sexual offences. Unfortunately, the ten-year maximum term rule that this bill proposes would not restrict offenders convicted of the following offences from receiving conditional sentences if they met the other criteria: removal of a child from Canada, section 273.3; sexual exploitation, section 153; sexual exploitation of a person with a disability, subsection 153.1(1); voyeurism, section 162; duty to provide necessities, section 215; abandoning a child, section 218; luring a child, section 172.1; abducting a person under 16, section 280. We believe that the above-noted offences are serious and often violent in nature, and therefore the offenders who commit them should not be allowed to serve their sentence under limited supervision within the community.
According to the legislative summary provided on Bill , the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics estimates that the average cost of supervising an offender in the community in 2002-03 was $1,792. We question how effective that supervision is for the offenders, given that the figure equates with less than $5 per day spent supervising any given offender.
Given that supervision of these offenders is carried out by probation and parole officers who are overworked and come from understaffed offices, it is unlikely that the supervision is very effective for those offenders. We also question the effectiveness of that supervision for certain types of offences and restrictions--for example, the concerns mentioned above and the almost limitless ways that individuals can access the Internet. How is a probation officer to ensure that a sex offender who is not permitted to access the Internet is not doing so when he is not supervised?
Like those offences covered by Bill , the offences we list above often have lasting physical and emotional consequences for their victims. Failing to include them on the list of those offences no longer eligible for conditional sentence minimizes the impact of these crimes and is a failure to address the gravity of these offences. There are numerous offences for which conditional sentences and the associated level of supervision that would be attached to the sentence are appropriate. Research has shown that victims support this view; they do not, however, support conditional sentences for violent offences. We echo that position.
Proponents of conditional sentences maintain that they are a necessary component of the restorative justice process. Restricting the proposed offences from eligibility for conditional sentence does not mean that there is no hope for restorative justice in these cases. Restorative justice principles do not advocate for the reduction of incarceration to facilitate the restorative justice process. Restorative justice is about ensuring that the victim's needs are both heard and addressed.
The CRCVC feels that the provisions for conditional sentencing, as introduced in 1996, have resulted in far too many violent criminals receiving sentences that are too lenient when compared to the impact of their offences. This is not the intent of the provisions. Bill begins to address this imbalance, and we support the bill in principle. We feel that the proposal can be strengthened so that crimes that are violent and serious in nature, which currently fall outside of its scope, may be included in the legislative change. Adopting a scheme that includes a list of offences that encompasses both those that fall within its scope and those that we feel should be included will serve to limit the applicability of conditional sentencing options to those offences for which the provisions were originally intended.
We would therefore recommend that the following changes be made with respect to Bill
We recommend it be amended to include the following offences, which I listed earlier: removal of a child from Canada; sexual exploitation; sexual exploitation of a child with a disability; voyeurism; duty to provide necessities; abandoning a child; luring a child; abducting a person under 16; and other serious and violent offences.
We recommend that Billbe amended such that the list of offences that are ineligible for conditional sentence be specified in a schedule rather than the current method proposed by the bill. This would allow for the inclusion of offences not included and the exclusion of those offences for which a conditional sentence is appropriate. And we recommend that the amended legislation be passed by Parliament without delay.
Thank you for the opportunity.
The $1,742 figure, I think it is, has come under some scrutiny here. The assumption is that it's so woefully inadequate that there is absolutely no level of supervision and that it's completely ineffective in enforcing the conditions given by a judge. There are two points there that I would certainly ask Mr. Stewart about.
Given the proper resources, do you feel that proper supervision could be undertaken? And moreover, do you have any indication that the level of supervision is woefully inadequate? So far, it's an assumption, “Oh well, at $1,700 it couldn't be very much.” That's an assumption. From what I read in the statistics, the breach of conditions is not at a 95% rate. People do not end up back in court for the breach of conditions in 95% of the cases; it's a very small percentage of the cases.
There will be the arguments that if a tree falls in the forest, you don't hear it; in other words, if people are out there breaching something and there's not enough supervision, it doesn't get detected.
I see the good police chief nodding to that.
But where's the meat in the sandwich here? Where is the proof that $1,700 is inadequate? I bet that when we have some probationary people here, they're going to say they're doing very well, that they could always use resources but are doing very well.
What would you say, Mr. Stewart?
I would like to explore with you a situation that I find somewhat paradoxical.
We are being asked here to pass a bill that will, in one fell swoop, add more than a hundred new offences. That would mean that people could be given conditional sentences, still on the basis of the parameters set by the Supreme Court in the Proulx ruling, which says that the use of such sentences must not represent a danger for the community, that the offence give rise to a sentence of less than two years, and so on.
Mr. Pichette, you are absolutely right to bring to our attention the fact that logically, most people, based on pure common sense, would agree that individuals who have been involved in organized crime at the highest levels should not be serving their sentence in the community. But by raising this question, are you not pointing to the absurdity of this bill?
In order to meet the goals that we set for ourselves as a society--in other words, people who have been involved in the most serious criminal acts should not necessarily be in the community--is it reasonable to simply include all offences punishable by a term of imprisonment of more than 10 years and use the 10-year threshold across the board? That would mean including offences related to counterfeiting, but also homicides and the most serious offences.
Would it not be preferable to amend section 718, which sets out a framework for the judiciary to use for the purposes of sentencing? That is the position of the Bloc Québécois. Should there not be a specific reference to individuals who have been involved in criminal gangs? We were both here when that whole public debate occurred.
This question is addressed both to the chiefs of police and the other witnesses. Are you not concerned about the idea of having a single threshold--namely offences punishable by a term of imprisonment of 10 years or more? Is this lack of nuance not in fact the kind of thing that we, as legislators, cannot afford? Is there not something worrisome about this way of approaching the criminal law?
Yes, but from day to day, those reporters only report on the exceptional cases. And you certainly cannot get a very accurate idea of what goes on in most cases by hearing only about the exceptional cases. Journalists report on sentences that capture people's imagination.
I believe a study was conducted in Toronto that showed that, as a general rule, judges give between 12 and 15 reasons to justify a sentence. The newspapers, however, refer to about one and a quarter. And obviously, the ones they do talk about are the ones that are most likely to capture people's imagination or shock them. Isn't that right?
In other words, whatever we do, it may be best to forget about the public's perception and simply focus on the reality, when attempting to determine whether sentences are unfair or not.
You talked about drug trafficking. You find it somewhat scandalous that only 20 per cent of cases involving drug trafficking result in sentences. You do know the definition of the word “trafficking”. It includes the idea of “giving” and “offering”. An example would be a young man who offers his girlfriend a joint of marijuana to watch a psychedelic film or engage in other drug trafficking activities.
As a general rule, whatever the type of offence involved, there are fewer less serious cases than there are serious cases. Of course, the public considers drug trafficking to be serious in terms of its consequences for society; you said so yourself. But the serious cases are in the minority, and yet you would like them to be subject to sentences that would be perceived as tough.
Why do you want to prevent judges from having the flexibility they need as regards sanctions, when they are the ones most aware of individual cases--those boring and repetitive cases--and who, most of the time, are really dealing with maladjusted individuals? That is one of the major characteristics of delinquency; delinquents are maladjusted. Do you think that judges are abusing their powers in this regard or that they are not applying this provision properly?
No, because I know your answer.
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
Mr. Serge Ménard: It's for those people who apparently don't realize that we keep suspended sentences. Personally, I'd prefer a suspended sentence if I were judge, because if a guy does not respect the conditions, I'm going to give him a sentence that I think is appropriate.
But with conditional sentences,
this means that for 18 months, he can spend 12 months with no problem, and in 16 months he gets a condition and then there are only two months left to do.
So where's the logic? Again, the logic is that you take away from judges the means to individualize the sentences, because to render a sentence in a particular case is always a balance of many factors: the circumstances in which the crime was committed, the circumstances of the accused and the chances he has to be rehabilitated, and also, of course, the gravity, the exemplary....
I started speaking English! Let's hope I won't start speaking Spanish.
Anyway, Mr. Stewart, I know everything you're going to say, and I agree.
Voices: Oh, oh!
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
My question is addressed to Mr. Pichette, and perhaps to Ms. Gray-Donald. I will come back to Mr. Stewart after that.
I would like to say right off the bat that I am a member of the new Conservative Party and that, although people don't believe it, we do feel compassion for victims. That is the whole reason behind Bill .
I particularly want to thank Mr. Serge Ménard, because he was my Minister of Public Safety. He worked on very important issues. I'm sure you remember the gang wars, involving the Hell's Angels. Heaven knows you certainly got more than your share of it in Montreal. I also know that he was very tough in terms of the decisions he made as Minister of Public Safety. The gang war that took place in the Montreal region was linked to the drug trade, and to what is known as territory.
Although it may not seem violent at first glance, drug trafficking is extremely violent. Drug traffickers create demand among young people. The small joint that is passed around ends up becoming one joint a day, and then one joint an hour. And young people get their supply from organized groups and drug traffickers.
What crimes do they commit? Well, because they don't have enough money, they start by committing robbery. Then they get involved in breaking and entering. The 65-year old lady who is robbed at home is not amused when that happens. Then comes conjugal violence, because of or the other has spent money. They fight, and you know what happens after that. And there's also prostitution. We were talking about mail theft earlier. Welfare recipients in my province end up having their monthly cheques stolen. These people change their identity in order to be able to cash it at the corner store and then go and buy drugs.
How do you expect a person who is 65 years of age to protect herself if she lives in the country and, as is very often the case, it's someone with links to her own family? No crime is really minor. It all depends on who the victim is and when the crime is committed.
I was surprised yesterday to hear it said that 40% of the drugs are entering our prisons. These are people who are locked up and under 24-hour surveillance. And yet 40% of the drugs are entering the prisons. A drug trafficker who has been given a conditional sentence is sitting at home and has nothing better to do than answer the telephone. And with all the electronic and telephone options available today, he could just as easily do that from a bar in the neighbourhood and say that he is at home.
We have been saddled with a ridiculous system. We're told that a person under surveillance costs $1,742 a year. But have you thought about what is made possible as a result of that money? Ridicule may not be fatal, but almost.
Something intrigues me here. Two or three days ago, in the Montreal region and elsewhere, at Pierre Elliott Trudeau Airport and other airports, we heard that drug traffickers had threatened employees who are police officers, and that they bribed even the employees responsible for security. This involves all the airports, the one in Toronto, the one in Montreal or those in British Columbia, where there are also ports that have been infiltrated by criminal groups.
Drugs are streaming into our country and creating all kinds of problems. We practically have to get down on our knees and beg the members of the Opposition to vote in favour of Bill , so that drug traffickers can no longer enjoy the freedom they currently have. I'm wondering whether Bill is not an indirect way... We've seen this, and we could review all the crimes. Each one has its specific pros and cons.
Thank you to the witnesses for your testimony. I found it most useful.
Don't feel bad about not having all kinds of statistics, because that's not why you were invited. I don't know why the opposition continues to ask for these statistics; these are not the bodies that gather all kinds of statistics. You're here to represent the chiefs of police, victims, and the John Howard Society. I wouldn't expect that you would be able to thrill us with all kinds of national statistics.
What I am interested in is your perspective in representing victims, front-line police, and chiefs of police. We hear stories as members of Parliament. Ms. Gray-Donald, who happens to be a constituent of mine, referred to a situation--her mother appeared as a witness before the previous government on the voyeurism provisions--and those anecdotal things are very important.
Mr. Lee said that we don't like the look of people doing hard time. That's not the case at all. The fact of the matter is--and Mr. Pecknold mentioned this--the public is losing faith in our justice system. We have to have faith in our justice system. I think that's so important. We are acting to restore that faith.
The opposition says that this is perhaps arbitrary. Well, in each of the offences that are enumerated here, previous Parliaments set a maximum of 10 years. That's somewhat arbitrary. Maybe some of them should be 10.2 years or 9.6 years maximum, but someone drew a line at 10. We're drawing the line that when proceeding by way of indictment for these offences that Parliament considers serious that an individual not serve time in their community, that we actually bring that denunciation and that deterrent into our justice system so that they have to serve some time in prison.
Can you give me a bit of the perspective from a victim and from the police? From the victim's perspective, how do they feel when they've been victimized and the person is serving time in the community where the victim lives? For the police, how do your officers respond when you've done the hard work to bring someone to that point, you've done your job, and then you find out a week or two later that the person you thought was going to be put away for a serious crime is back in the community?