I'd like to thank the chair and honourable members for inviting me here today before your committee. It's a real honour, and I appreciate it. And I hope it will be lively.
I'm going to be talking about what I characterize as the three urban legends. I'm using that term—this will come out during the presentation—because of my very public frustration with the Department of Justice ministry and the Public Safety ministry concerning a very important and serious literature called the Journal of Law and Economics.
I'll run through some of these very quickly. The first urban legend—and I've seen it quoted in Jeffrey Simpson's article earlier this year in The Globe and Mail, as well as in Dan Gardner's article in the Ottawa Citizen—is that violent crime is down in Canada. This is factually, statistically, and actually not true.
The slide being shown is from Statistics Canada, starting in 1962. I chose 1962 for a reason. I'm in the middle of the baby boom generation. In 1962 I was 10 years old. I remember 1962 and afterward very vividly. We could do things at that age—at 10, 11, or 12 years old—that we can't do today.
This is from Statistics Canada. The crime rate per 100,000--so we're not playing games with the absolute population--has gone up from 221 crimes per 100,000, and these are violent crimes, to 943 in the past 40 years, in my lifetime, the lifetime that I can recall and remember.
The second urban legend is dealing with the law and economics research program. I just want to speak to it very briefly. The law and economics research program is centred at the most prestigious universities in the world--Stanford, Carnegie-Mellon, Yale, Princeton, Harvard--and it was pioneered by a person called Gary Becker, who won a Nobel Prize about 10 years ago. There are about four Nobel Prizes that have been issued in this area called law and economics. This is a very serious and very highly respected research area. Gary Becker earned his Nobel specifically dealing with crime and punishment. The other three Nobels were in the law and economics area, but not dealing specifically with crime and punishment.
There is a certain researcher. I've quoted him extensively. His name is Steve Levitt. He's under the age of 40. He won the very prestigious Bates Medal for the most brilliant economist in the United States under the age of 40. He has published over 60 academic articles, which most academics will not publish in their lifetime. On top of that, Time magazine this year said he was one of the 100 most influential people in the world. He has published in journals of quantitative criminology and he has published some extraordinarily impressive research. This is one of the articles, as you can see, in front of you.
Why I'm talking about incarceration as urban legend two, before I go to MMS, is because it is the broad case. MMS--minimum mandatory sentences--are simply a special case of incarceration. To put it another way, if incarceration doesn't work, then minimum mandatories cannot work by definition--logically they can't--because it's a subset of incarceration. So this data set was interpreted and analysed by Steve Levitt in a series of articles published in some of the most important journals in the world, and he came to these conclusions. I would draw your attention to the third paragraph especially: “...the increase in incarceration over the 1990s can account for a reduction of about one-third of the observed decline in crime.”
In fact, in another article he did, analysing the reason for the very dramatic decline in crime in the 1990s, he came up with four reasons: first was incarceration, which accounted for one-third of the decline; second was the legalization of abortion, which accounted for one-third of the decline, approximately; third was the waning of the crack epidemic, which is 10%; and last, the increase in the number of police on the ground.
That brings us to the third minimum mandatory. Dr. Joanna Shepherd is a brilliant young researcher who is both a professor of economics and a professor at a law school. She has a double appointment. She has undertaken the most comprehensive analysis of minimum mandatory sentencing, studied in California, and she concluded that they decreased murders by 16%, aggravated assaults by 12%, robberies by 24%, rapes by 12%, and larcenies by 3%.
I'm going to skip over this because I really do want to make sure I have enough time in the ten minutes to get to my final set of points, which we can talk about later, concerning the California three strikes law. I would just caution you to note that there is a lot of mythology about the three strikes. One of them is, you can go to jail for stealing a pizza three times. This is not true, because the first and second strike is reserved for only violent crimes. The third crime can be any crime, but the California three strikes law requires that the first and second strikes be serious acts of violence. Again, this shows the data. We can talk more about it later.
Florida has come up with a similar law called 10-20-life, which again is a minimum mandatory. You can see up there the three years, ten years, twenty years, and then life. Again, this shows the statistics from the Government of Florida Statistical Analysis Center, which has stated that it reduced crime by 50% during the period that it has been in effect.
I'm shifting gears now to Canada, to the changing role of the Canadian federal offender. The CSC, the Correctional Service of Canada, has published a lot of empirical, statistical information over the past four or five years, and the commissioner, Dr. Keith Coulter, has given several speeches. The reason I want to emphasize this is that the profile of our offenders has changed very dramatically. They are much more violent today than 10, 15, or 20 years ago, and they are there for much shorter periods of time on average. These are statistical numbers from the CSC, not my interpretation. You can see the numbers there: nearly 50% of offenders have served a prior youth sentence; 75% of offenders in our jails are now there for violent offences; one in four are sentenced for homicide; 1,000 for first-degree murder; and one in six are affiliated with gangs.
This shows up in the statistic from Correctional Service Canada, showing that 70% of federal offenders are there for a violent offence. This is a statistic, which I hope everyone takes a very close look at, showing the average time actually served for a given sentence.
This graph shows three different sentences: someone convicted and sentenced for between two and three years, between three and four years, and between four and five years. What it shows is that the average actual time served is 15 months for a person sentenced for two to three years and approximately 18 months to 20 months for the three- to four-year sentence.
That leads to my final point, which is based on some data I obtained from the Auditor General's report, but then I went beyond this and did some numbers. If the average offender is in a federal institution for three years, they serve only 15 months, according to the CSC data. The average rehabilitation program requires seven months for a high-intensity or violent offender, and on average they need three to rehabilitate. The person is only in a federal penitentiary for 15 months, but it takes 21 months to rehabilitate that person. What this means is that we are releasing people who have not yet been rehabilitated, violent people, back into the Canadian population.
This is really a graph, which I'm sure everyone has seen. It's the dangerous offenders designation, but it supports what I was saying earlier. There's a very small number designated each year.
This leads me to my final slide. Violent offenders need more time, not less, for rehabilitation. In fact, we are not rehabilitating them fully, because they are getting out prematurely—that is, before they are rehabilitated. The outcome is more dangerous communities. The evidence for that statement is the increasing crime, per Statistics Canada, between 1962 and today.
So my conclusion is that we need minimum mandatory sentencing to ensure that the rehabilitation takes, which many people today claim is the purpose of sentencing a violent offender.
I thank you for your attention, and I will be more than willing to take questions afterwards.
Mr. Chair, committee members, good afternoon.
The Canadian Police Association welcomes the opportunity to present our submissions to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights with respect to Bill C-10, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (minimum penalties for offences involving firearms).
The CPA is the national voice for 54,700 police personnel serving across Canada. Through our 170 member associations, CPA membership includes police personnel serving in police services from 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.
The Canadian Police Association is acknowledged as a national voice for police personnel in the reform of the Canadian criminal justice system. 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.
Urban violence has been a significant concern for our association. For over a decade, police associations have been advocating reforms to our justice system in Canada, and in particular we've called for changes to bolster the sentencing, detention, and parole of violent offenders.
At our 2004 annual general meeting, CPA delegates unanimously adopted a resolution that includes a call for federal legislation to be introduced to ensure tougher and more adequate mandatory prison sentences for individuals involved in firearm-related crime.
Repeat offenders are a serious problem. There's been considerable debate at this committee about the use of minimum sentences and the frequency of repeat offenders. Make no mistake about it: repeat offenders are a serious problem. Police understand this intuitively, as we deal with these frequent flyers on a routine basis.
Statistics released by the Toronto police homicide squad for 2005 demonstrate this point. Among the 32 people facing murder or manslaughter charges for homicide in 2006, 14 were on bail at the time of the offence, 13 were on probation, and 17 were subject to firearms prohibition orders. The revolving-door justice system is failing to prevent further criminal activity by these repeat violent offenders.
Gun violence requires a non-partisan approach. Support for tougher measures to thwart gun violence transcends party lines. During the last federal election, three major parties promised tougher sentences for crimes involving firearms. The NDP platform promised to “Increase the mandatory minimum penalty for possession, sale and importation of illegal arms such as hand guns, assault rifles and automatic weapons”, and “Add mandatory minimum sentences to other weapons offences”, including a “four-year minimum sentence on all weapon offences, such as possession of a concealed weapons'”.
Former Prime Minister Martin promised to toughen penalties “by re-introducing legislation to crack down on violent crimes and gang violence, by doubling the mandatory minimum sentences for key gun crimes”. Former Liberal Justice Minister Irwin Cotler introduced Bill in November 2005 to address gun violence. Bill C-82 would include increasing certain minimum penalties relating to smuggling, trafficking in, and possession of firearms and other weapons, and creating two new offences, breaking and entering to steal a firearm and robbery to steal a firearm.
When Bill was introduced this spring, Premier McGuinty was quoted as stating that the bill will “make a real difference when it comes to promoting safety for our families and our communities”. Last year, Conservative MP Daryl Kramp introduced a private member's bill, Bill , that would require that a sentence for commission of certain serious offences be supplemented if a firearm is used in the commission of that offence.
A justice department survey conducted in March 2005 by Decima Research confirmed that an “overwhelming majority” of Canadians support mandatory minimum jail terms for gun crimes such as robbery with a firearm and criminal negligence causing death with a firearm. According to CanWest news, the poll of 2,343 Canadians revealed that “Support for mandatory jail terms for robbery with a firearm was as high as 82%, compared with 14% who opposed the prospect”.
Similarly, an Ipsos Reid CanWest Global poll conducted December 30, 2005, to January 2, 2006, of 8,336 Canadian voters found that 73% of the respondents supported changing the current laws so that being convicted of committing a gun crime would carry a mandatory 10-year prison sentence with no eligibility for parole or early release.
Clearly, there is broad political and public support for tougher measures to deal with firearm crimes. We urge Parliament to move swiftly to address the areas of consensus as quickly as possible. The CPA supports in principle the measures contained within Bill with necessary modifications.
On amendments, although the CPA supports the vast majority of proposals contained within Bill , we do have one significant area of concern. It relates to the proposal dealing with the use of firearms in the commission of attempted murder, discharging a firearm with intent, sexual assault with a weapon, aggravated sexual assault, kidnapping, hostage-taking, robbery, and extortion.
contemplates a tiered response. Offenders who commit these crimes, whether with a restricted or a prohibited firearm or any firearm in connection with a criminal organization, are subject to escalating penalties—five years for a first offence, seven years for a second offence, and ten years for a third or subsequent offence. Conversely, if the firearm is not used in connection with a criminal organization and the weapon is not restricted or prohibited, the mandatory minimum sentence is only four years, regardless of whether it is a second, third, or subsequent offence.
We find the different treatment for long guns to be misguided, and we are at a loss to understand the rationale for distinguishing the penalty on the basis of the class of firearm that is issued by a person in the commission of a very serious crime. Police officers routinely discover these weapons in firearms seizures, clandestine drug labs, and marijuana grow-ops. Will shotguns and rifles become the weapons of choice for repeat violent offenders? In many situations, a rifle or shotgun is a far more lethal threat in the hands of a criminal than a handgun.
For example, high-powered rifles are capable of shooting through body armour and other protective equipment. Shotguns can be extremely powerful weapons when used at short range. A tragic example is the murder of Constable Valerie Gignac of Laval last fall, who was shot through a wall with a high-powered rifle. Of the 13 police officers killed with firearms in the past decade, only three were murdered with handguns; 77% were murdered with long guns, and it's unlikely that any of the offenders in these cases would have met the threshold for participation or membership in a criminal organization.
This latter threshold of connection with a criminal organization also presents an additional hurdle for prosecutors to prove in order to obtain the higher mandatory penalty. While we applaud measures to deal proactively with criminal organizations, we contend that any person who uses any firearm in the commission of an offence should receive the full mandatory minimum penalty available, and particularly repeat offenders.
The recent tragedy at Dawson College in Montreal has reinforced the need to strengthen Canada's control over civilian firearms possession. To our knowledge, no new firearms have been added to the restricted or prohibited categories in Canada for over a decade, yet many new firearms have been designed that are being offered for sale in Canada and would arguably meet existing criteria. As a consequence, some weapons are being legally sold in Canada despite the fact that they meet existing criteria for restricted or prohibited status and present significant concerns for public safety.
Retailers understand and exploit these loopholes, as demonstrated by the website for Wolverine Supplies in Manitoba. You'll find that in our brief. We submit that further steps must be taken to close the loopholes by updating and maintaining the restricted and prohibited firearms classifications.
In conclusion, I'll say that one of the concerns of police officers across the country is to stop the violence. The solution to this begins with bringing an end to Canada's revolving door justice system. Canada's police officers have lost confidence in a system that sees violent offenders regularly return to the streets. We need to restore meaningful consequences and deterrence in our justice system, which begins with stiffer sentences, real jail time and tougher parole eligibility policies for violent offenders. We need stiffer minimum sentences for offenders who commit crimes with guns, or any type of weapon.
Bill C-10 provides a positive component in an integrated strategy to address current shortfalls, specifically pertaining to the concern with gun violence. We believe that it can provide an effective deterrent against violent gun crimes, and we fully endorse the principle of creating tougher mandatory minimum penalties for the commission of serious offences involving the use of a firearm.
We thank you for your attention and we welcome your questions.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I want to first of all thank the committee for inviting me to appear this afternoon. It's my honour and privilege to do so.
I don't represent any association. I don't represent any lobby or interest group. I'm simply a law professor who has been teaching criminal law, evidence, and trial advocacy for the past 20 years. Hopefully, I can assist you with some of my experience.
I'd like to start with two fundamental principles in criminal law: clarity and fairness. The law has to be clear and it has to be fair. In my written submission to you, I point out that there are two problems with Bill . I think there is a problem with clarity and a problem with fairness. I've provided two suggestions on how to make the law clearer and fairer.
First of all, I'd like to turn to the issue of clarity. Actually, it builds upon something the last speaker was talking about. In my view, Bill , as it now stands, is unduly complex, and it will in fact be unworkable in practice. In fact, if Bill is put into law, you may well be creating a loophole for those who do use firearms in the commission of offences. That's my primary concern: the issue of firearms in the commission of offences. I think what you simply need to do is to simplify the law. Make it simple. Use the existing wordings in the Criminal Code.
I want to illustrate this with some examples. Let's assume we have an accused who robs a store. He has a shotgun, which isn't that unusual. Let's say the Crown can prove identification, which isn't that easy, but they can. Well, once they have identification, they also see that he has a prior record for violent offences using firearms. You'd think we'd now be triggering the second offence mandatory minimum of seven years. Will it apply? No. When you look at your triggering mechanism in Bill , it requires that the weapon either be restricted or prohibited--a shotgun is neither--or that this person is a member of a criminal organization acting for the benefit of or at direction of the criminal organization. Quite frankly, good luck. That's very difficult to prove. In the absence of that, you have the residual, which means the four-year minimum. We can prove that he used the shotgun. We can see that. We have witnesses to that. We can prove identification. But this will not trigger the legislation.
Take another example. A woman is sexually assaulted at gunpoint. She's traumatized by it. When she's asked to describe the weapon, she has difficulty. She can't tell whether it's a handgun or a rifle or a shotgun or anything. She knows for darn sure that there was a gun and that she was sexually assaulted. We have DNA that shows the perpetrator. We have him. We can identify him. Will we trigger the second or third offence? Say, for instance, we see that he has prior offences for violence. Will it be triggered? No, it won't. She won't be able to tell us whether this is a prohibited or a restricted weapon. If she can't, you then have to try to prove that he was a member of a criminal organization doing a sexual assault for the benefit, direction, or association of the gang. Good luck, again. It's not going to happen.
Let's take a third one, a drive-by shooting. A person is shot. He was driving down the street, a car drove up, and someone shot him. We see that it was a .22 calibre. We have our forensics that can identify that. But can they identify that it's a .22 handgun? Or is it a .22 long rifle? If you can't prove that, you're not into the second or third strikes. You're back to the residual four-year, where we are now.
Here's the simple question I have for the members of the committee. If your intention is not to have those individuals punished with the second or third strike, then ignore what I have to say. But I would venture to say that your intention is that those people should be caught by the legislation the second or third time, and that's where I urge the committee to go back to simplicity.
In my written submission, I compare the wording in with the existing wording. Isn't the concern firearm violence? Isn't that the fundamental concern? And if your answer to that is yes, then does it matter that the rapist or the robber used a handgun versus a long rifle? I think the answer is obvious—it's no.
Given this added complexity, I will tell you what crowns will do: they will not charge using your two or three strikes legislation; they will not. They will charge using the residual. Why? Because that is the course of least resistance.
You are giving me, a former defence counsel, an argument to raise in court with this legislation. You are giving me a means to negotiate out of two or three strikes with the Crown, because they're going to have real difficulty proving a criminal connection. My guy may well have been a gang member, but he was freelancing, and that means it doesn't apply.
So I urge the committee, there is nothing wrong with the existing wording. It has been around for over 10 years, since this Parliament passed the mandatory minimums for these intentional crimes, and I urge the committee to go back to simplicity. I think you will find that it will be workable. As drafted, the bill is, in my view, unduly complex, unnecessary, and, quite frankly, it will constitute a loophole.
I've got a second concern, the issue of making the law fairer. I don't care what anyone says—and you've no doubt been told this—mandatory minimum sentences are a blunt instrument. They remove discretion and they make all offenders subject to the same minimum. Some people are unfairly caught. Some people should not receive the mandatory minimum; they are caught. Some might say that's the price of justice, that's the price of using a firearm, but I think most countries who have introduced mandatory minimums have recognized that there needs to be some discretion.
When I look at the types of crimes where, in my view, people ought not to receive the mandatory minimum, there are two types of crimes committed. They are criminal negligence causing death and manslaughter. Both now have the four-year minimum—and, incidentally, they are not part of .
What I urge the committee to do is to consider discretion for those types of unintentional deaths arising from firearms. I want to give you two simple specific examples that occur on, I hate to say, a regular basis, but very routinely.
We've got the police association here. Let's deal with police officers, who have weapons. Let's assume we've got a police officer in a volatile standoff. The officer thinks he hears a gunshot. The officer panics and uses a weapon; he fires in return and kills someone. He ought not to have fired. He was mistaken; he panicked. He may well be charged, because we expect our police officers to be well trained and to be restrained in their use of firearms. He may well be charged with criminal negligence causing death, and he would then be subject to the four-year minimum sentence. I'm not sure what the views of the gentlemen to my right would be on that, but I can give you cases where this has indeed been the situation.
I give you another common situation from one of the first cases I was involved in when I was a young man. It dealt with a middle-aged woman. I remember the case well because it wasn't that often we had a truly innocent person, if you like, we were defending, so it stuck in my mind. She had blasted her husband away with a double-barrelled shotgun at close range with both barrels. It didn't look good. She was charged with murder. When we started to investigate, though, we found that the husband had been abusive. We found as well that he was a drinker, and we found that he loved his guns—and he had guns all over the place. He would routinely take those guns and threaten her and her family. She got so fed up one day, she picked up the shotgun—and she didn't have any idea if it was loaded or not—and pointed it at him and said, how do you like this? How do you like this? And bam, the gun went off because it had a hair-trigger. When the first barrel went, the second one discharged too. And she was devastated.
She was convicted of manslaughter. We got it reduced from murder, but she was convicted of manslaughter. At the end of the day, the sentencing judge gave her a suspended sentence. Members of the committee, that was a just and fair sentence for that woman.
The problem with criminal negligence and manslaughter charges is they are so broad, they catch people who unintentionally kill with firearms. Now, you might say, what does that have to do with Bill ? Well, if this committee or Parliament were to look at an exceptional discretion for criminal negligence and manslaughter offences, I would think it would show three things. First, it would show that Parliament has turned its mind to be firm but fair. It would recognize where the vast majority of fairness cases would arise. Second, it would provide a simple mechanism for people like the woman I represented to seek a just sentence. Right now, she would have grave difficulty doing so; she'd have to challenge the legislation under the charter or seek a constitutional exemption. And here's a third reason. It would show the distinction between unintentional and intentional crimes. Bill is concerned with intentional crimes.
Quite frankly, here's what my argument would be. If Parliament had a discretion for unintentional crimes, it would actually reinforce the point that when you use a firearm for an intentional crime—attempted murder, robbery, or whatever—Parliament has indicated there is no discretion. It would, if anything, make your mandatory minimum, in these types of crimes in Bill C-10, charter-proof.
I simply point that out to you. In my view, the vast majority of cases involving unintentional killings is where you have a disproportionate sentence.
Members of the committee, those are my concerns and my suggestions. I look forward to your questions.
Thank you for listening.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
My name is Paul Chartrand. I teach law in the College of Law at the University of Saskatchewan.
I thank the committee for inviting me. I am here at the invitation of the committee. I belong to no political party. I have never belonged to any political party. The views I will offer are based on my experience, which includes being involved in the production of some reports and recommendations on criminal justice policy, particularly pertaining to aboriginal peoples. I cite in particular my service as a commissioner on the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, and also more recently as a commissioner on Manitoba's Aboriginal Justice Implementation Commission.
I am here at your invitation and I view my participation here as a matter of my contribution to public service.
As legislators, you have a high duty and responsibility to protect society. Whatever can be done to make our community safer, including reducing the use of firearms, is a good thing and you ought to do it. We all deplore and denounce the use of firearms in the commission of crimes. However, the matter of sentencing and the matter of administration of criminal law is fraught with emotion and complexity.
We must recognize that there are no easy solutions to complex problems. In fact, I always advise my students to be very wary of those who offer simple solutions to complex problems. I can give you examples of the danger they pose to society.
I presume that all of us wish to legislate in such a way as to promote a just and tolerant Canada. Let me ask, then, with respect to Bill , is minimum mandatory sentencing a legitimate means to address the problem? My answer is no.
A second question is, will minimum mandatory sentencing work? The answer again is no.
Let me elaborate in the short time I have. It is not a legitimate means for the following reasons. First, it is arguably contrary to the law of the Constitution. Second, it is demonstrably in conflict with Canada's obligations under international human rights treaties. I cite among others--and I will elaborate if there is sufficient time in the question period to follow--the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination with respect to aboriginal peoples.
Mandatory minimum sentencing is unprincipled. It clashes with the fundamental principles of our criminal justice system. In fact, mandatory sentencing is an oxymoron. After conviction, the process of sentencing seeks to address the degree of blameworthiness. If you have seven people committing the same offence, you are faced with potentially seven different degrees of blameworthiness. All that is removed by a minimum sentence.
A very quick example is taken from a case involving an aboriginal man who used a rifle and was subjected to one of these mandatory minimum sentences. He used his rifle in defending himself against a criminal gang in his community. He didn't like gangs, but he had a rifle--he belonged to a hunting community--and he faced the mandatory minimum.
Let me go on and emphasize why mandatory minimum sentences do not work, notwithstanding what has been proposed to you by Professor Ian Lee. When I say this, I'm relying mainly on the literature that I read and on my being briefed by Canada's and other places' top criminologists, lawyers, and practitioners who work in this area every day. I must say I'm not aware of the work of Professor Lee from the School of Business at Carleton in this regard.
Why will it not work? First, it will create a much more expensive system. True, it's a political easy fix because you don't need to attach a budget to this particular legislation, but it will cost a lot on the road. All the statistics point to that. It will be tremendously expensive, and if you ask questions later on on this, I will elaborate on why it has become more expensive. First of all, I think it costs roughly $80,000 a year to keep people in jail. Obviously, if you're going to put more people in jail, it will cost you a lot more. If you set a minimum, and if judges do try to ignore what I suggested, that it's an oxymoron, then they will take the minimum to be applicable to the best offender and all the sentences will go up, ergo the costs will increase. You cannot avoid that. It will be horrendously expensive.
My next point is that it will not work, because presumably you're trying to create a less dangerous society. An earlier speaker suggested that we need harsh sentences. We have a lot of experience in the use of harsh sentences. We can cut off their hands. We can jail them forever. We can use steel pincers to pull out the flesh and pour molten tar into the wounds, which are examples of the harsh punishment that has been meted out to offenders in the past. These are historical examples. If you want to be harsh, there are many ways of doing that very effectively, but it does not work. You create a more dangerous society.
Usually people are inclined to look at the people going into jail. As you will hear with these minimum sentences, they ought to go to jail; they have to go in. So you're looking at the front door and then you don't look at what goes on inside. Essentially, I suggest to you that you're telling people to go to hell. You want to ignore them because there the place is hell.
I submit there's no evidence to support the previous contention that you need longer sentences to allow for rehabilitation. That proposition is based on the assumption that there is rehabilitation. Instead of looking at the front door, at who goes into the jail, I invite you to go and have a look at the back door. Who comes out? Every day criminals are sentenced and come in the front door, but every day criminals come out the back door. If you think you're sending dangerous people to jail at the front door, think of the kind of people you're letting out the back door. Send a 20-year-old—
I ask you when you're contemplating enacting legislation like this, think about Canada and jailing Canadians. Think of a recipient of those kinds of sentences as your son, your grandson, or your niece. They're human beings. They will come out tougher criminals. In jail they will get sodomized. They will become heroin addicts. Those are the kinds of things that happen there. They will be harsher and tougher. Being tough on crime actually results in creating and manufacturing tougher criminals. It seems to me if society can live with the people who get out the back door, surely you can live with most of the ones who go in the front door.
Finally, I want to say that aboriginal people are incarcerated...in statistics that are disproportionately higher in comparison to other people.
This will create tremendous social disruption and problems, not only for aboriginal individuals, their families, and their communities, but for the provinces. In effect, the federal government will be off-loading a lot of the costs onto the provinces, particularly the western provinces, like Saskatchewan and Manitoba, that have very high aboriginal populations. I think there are statistics that suggest that something like over 500 aboriginal people were sentenced last year. If they were subjected to this mandatory minimum sentencing, you'd have 500. So multiply 500 times 80 and so on and you get the statistics.
I want to conclude my presentation by suggesting that these complex problems can only be fixed in a holistic way. Holistic is realistic, but it's very difficult. You have to attack the root causes of crime. These are not easy to sell politically or in 15-second sound bites. The evidence all shows us--and I've been briefed on this--that you can tell when a child is about seven years old whether that child is going to go to jail. And Indian people who become reserve residents have way more probability of going to jail than of going to university.
So the way to combat crime is to combat the root causes of crime: assist children, have children's benefits, assist families, have community services and recreation, and so on. I can give you statistics on that. The Manitoba Northern Fly-In Sports Camp that the RCMP conducted some years ago would be an example of that. But the federal government can't do it alone. You would have to work not only with the provinces but with the municipal governments as well.
It's very easy to just adopt an easy fix like minimum sentences, but they're neither legitimate nor do they work. I ask members of the committee not to adopt Bill , because this kind of legislation will create not a more tolerant and just Canada; it will create a meaner and nastier Canada, and I wish that my little granddaughters would not live in a meaner and nastier Canada.
Thank you very much
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I want to thank the witnesses.
Professor Chartrand, I know that my colleague, Mr. Bagnell, will be keying in on your testimony, so if I pass you over on this round, please don't be offended.
It seems that when we discuss this matter, we're all I think on common ground: we want to make the laws of Canada more effective and make our communities safe. We have, however, some debate from time to time on the best tools to use. We were fortunate last week to hear evidence from the chief of police of Toronto, and in the same week here in Ottawa we heard evidence from a ranking RCMP officer charged with community safety--the chief superintendent, in fact.
There's a common theme between that bit of testimony and Mr. Cannavino's testimony on behalf of CPA, and I think Mr. Stuesser said this as well--and it goes to amendment time down the road, which we should all keep in our minds--in that distinguishing between the types of firearms used is really no way to deal with this matter. If we are going to talk about mandatory minimums, there seems to be fairly consistent evidence that we should consider crimes done with all firearms. I invite members of the committee to take that, whatever page you want to come from politically, as the overwhelming testimony.
The big question I have, and it's arising from the testimony, is that what seems to be missing here, and I would commend this to Mr. Lee and other members of the subcommittee, Mr. Chairman, is that we really haven't had sufficient evidence on what happens to the offender when he or she is in the prison system, or the system.
I'm quite struck by Mr. Lee's very emphatic--I'm not necessarily saying I agree with it all--evidence that the course of rehabilitation is not completed during a short sentence. You don't have a footnote to back that up. I'm sure you can give us the facts on that or elaborate briefly when I'm finished this questioning. But it does strike me that we have to examine what happens to offenders when they're in the prison system. There's quite a bit of anecdotal evidence that it's education for higher learning in crime, it's a rehabilitation model, or it's a model for further criminalization. What do we get out of the process when we put somebody away? What do we hope for and what do we get? So there's very much a gap in our testimony here.
I'll start with you, if I may, Mr. Lee. What is your basis for saying that the rehabilitation is not complete in one or two cycles? Are you suggesting that if 21 months were the standard sentence, everybody would come out rehabilitated? Surely you know that there are studies that suggest that some people are not rehabilitatable.
They did not judge that one was superior to another. I argue in this article that is being published next spring that it's a philosophical choice that you, the parliamentarians, must make. Which principle do you wish to emphasize? I certainly wouldn't presume to tell you.
In the debate and all the literature, there seems to be an extraordinary emphasis on rehabilitation. So I piggy-backed on that assumption and said, okay, there seems to be an emphasis on rehabilitation in the Department of Justice, in a lot of the research on their website on public safety, and in the literature published by criminologists. So I took that as the assumption.
Now to deal with your point, the data I used is from published documents on the public record from Correctional Service Canada. I draw your attention to the safe return document. I have all the stuff electronically on this laptop, including some 400 articles dealing with this broader subject. So the data is from the safe return document and the statistical overview document from Correctional Service.
What triggered my approach--and this is again from memory, but it's in this computer--was that in 1994, 1996, 1999, and 2004, the Office of the Auditor General of Canada looked into this question. It's a kind of obvious question. If we are sending people to federal penitentiaries, how long does it take to rehabilitate them, given that a lot of people agree that is the purpose? So this data I quoted you is from two or three of the documents. I can give you the precise citations after, if you wish.
The safe return document and the statistical overview are the two that stick in my memory at this moment.
Thanks very much. I appreciate you people being here.
I'm going to ask four questions, and I hope to ask them quickly. There's a question for each one of you. If you just make a note of it, I'll go back to the first question and then we'll go from there.
To Professor Chartrand, you say that the legislation we're doing here to try to lock up more people is going to cause more jail time and is going to cost a lot more. Have you ever done any cost analysis of what crime costs when these people are left on the street and continue to commit crimes? Sometimes we can measure that in monetary things. The cost of crime should never be left out of any formula. Why is that not talked about by people like yourself?
Front door to back door--we know what happens when we go into the front door of a penitentiary and out the back door. You say they come out more dangerous. I would suggest to you, sir, that what happens inside the penitentiary should never be happening because of our lax laws. How in the world can you have a penitentiary where people are in debt because they don't pay their rent inside, or because they're drinking too much alcohol, or because drugs are overused, and they lay around an awful lot in these things? I've been to many of them and I've seen this. I think what takes place in that penitentiary could have a lot better effect on those coming out the back door than what we're doing today. You can comment on that.
Last is root causes. I don't even want to go there. Root causes is something we should all work on, but not through this committee. We're talking about people who have committed a crime, and now we have to deal with it. The root causes are something we all can engage in by some other method than through the justice committee.
To the police commission, I thank you so much for being here. I really appreciate hearing about the number of cases that have happened when they're on bail, probation, and parole. I understand that the authority you have as police officers for arresting without warrant when someone is obviously breaking parole does not exist. I'd like you to comment on how much effect you think that would have in curbing crime, as well as some of the sentencing that's taking place with .
Professor Lee, I really appreciate your charts. A lot of people, this committee included, don't seem to think that from 40 years ago there has been a significant increase in crime. I agree with you, sir. I'm so glad to see that chart; it is extremely significant. The silly decisions we've made over the years are a lot of the root cause for that thing going up.
They keep claiming alcohol is a root cause of crime. Well, I agree, but we're the society that said it's okay to keep bars open seven days a week and it's okay to keep them open till three o'clock in the morning. So they carry a bunch of knives or anything with them. “This is Canada; we have some freedoms we have to respect”, and all that nonsense. So we've asked for a lot of our own problems. I'd like your comment on that.
Mr. Stuesser, I too believe in the firm, fair, and fast—the three-F—system. We used to have it in the military. I thought that was one of the best systems. But I need a little more clarification. Are you suggesting that this is okay, but we also need legislation for unintentional commissions of a crime? I think accidental shootings and self-defence are already covered in the code, but if that's not true, I'd like your comments on that.
Those are my questions, and if you take them in order, I'd like to hear your response.
I'll just make a couple of general observations.
If you're going to look for statistics to show that deterrence works, you're not going to find them, quite frankly. I think all the studies have indicated that maybe there might be minimal input. This issue isn't really for criminologists or sociologists, quite frankly. It's a political decision that, as part of, hopefully a whole package of things, can address this. This is but one bit.
I'm just being blunt on this because when I look at the literature that I've seen, I've not seen any conclusive studies that say deterrence works. In fact, if anything, the studies in the United States in particular have shown that it has not worked. But, in fairness, I think the United States went to excess in California or elsewhere. The legislation that you have here is far more surgical. You seem to be pointing at violent crimes and the use of firearms, and that's far more surgical than what we have in the United States.
You can bring in all the experts you want on this, and one will say, “Mr. Lee will say one thing, but we can bring ten other experts to say the other.” Where is that going to get you? It's the battle of the experts.
Firm, fair, and fast--I couldn't agree with you more. I come from Manitoba. We're a small province. You'd think we should be able to arrest a person, have the trial, and get that done within, say, three or four months. Do you know what the average time is from the time of arrest to trial in Manitoba? It's approximately a year or more. And we're a small province. That's terrible. And it's systemic, right? It's in the court system and the lawyers.
As a result of the delay, the judges have a very difficult decision to make. They have a person who has committed a violent offence. What do they do? Do they deny bail? That means he's going to be sitting in remand for a year, which is why judges will often release, as the legislation in fact provides. Then, of course, the person commits.... So if we could have speedier.... Now here's the reality. It's going to cost, and it's going to cost the Province of Manitoba a great deal because they're in charge of the administration of justice.
All I'm saying in terms of these things is that I quite agree with you.
On fairness, though, if you look across the common-law world where mandatory sentences have been in for quite awhile, do you know what they're doing? They're retreating. They've been moving a little bit more to some discretion because I think they recognized it was too blunt an instrument.
All I was saying in my presentation here is that I've identified two crimes in particular where I think real unfairness can occur, and I gave you the concrete examples. One is criminal negligence causing death and the other is manslaughter. They are not in . Bill C-10 is dealing with intentional crimes. All I'm saying is that I would like to see Parliament turn its mind to being firm and fair. Fair would be a discretion for those two crimes.
I'm a realist. I'm not here to say to you to have discretion everywhere. That's where I was coming from.
Thanks to all the witnesses for attending.
Some questions have been raised concerning the government's approach. You can comment on anything I say to the witnesses. In the report from Statistics Canada, the national homicide rate rose for the second straight year in 2005.
I think, Dr. Lee, you mentioned that it's a myth that crime is going down. In fact, the most recent statistics say it's increasing, and in 2005 it reached “its highest point in nearly a decade”, while firearms-related killings increased for the third year in a row, as the government looked for better ways to control gun violence. “Police services reported 658 homicides last year, 34 more than in 2004. Of these, 222 were committed with a firearm, up from 173 in 2004. Most of the increase in the homicide rate was driven by a jump in gang-related homicides, particularly in Ontario and Alberta.” Also, “107 homicides were believed to be gang-related in 2005, 35 more than in 2004”. As well, Statistics Canada reported that “Two-thirds of gang-related homicides involved a firearm, usually a hand gun.”
So this is some of the information that Statistics Canada is telling us, and that's why we have the focus on gang violence and the use of handguns. The points that were made today are well taken, including wanting to minimize the bill's complexity and make it as effective as possible.
I want to ask, Mr. Cannavino or Mr. Griffin, about this serious issue. Our government's approach has been to target criminals. In the past, it seems we've seen efforts to target everybody but criminals. There's always reluctance to get tougher on crime, and I don't say tough just for the sake of being tough, but to try to restore some effectiveness and balance, and that factor we were looking for—denunciation of our criminals.
I hear from my constituents, and I know everyone else does, about someone who's literally back on the street before the victim is out of the hospital. There's no denunciation when that type of thing happens, so we're trying to have a very focused approach on specific crimes.
Regarding the issue of firearms, we heard from Chief Blair that it used to be about 50-50 between smuggled and stolen firearms, and he said even more are smuggled in now.
We also wanted to focus on the issue of a robbery or a break and enter where firearms are stolen. You represent police from coast to coast, in large and small communities. The point was made, does this necessarily address the rural reality? My argument would be that it's serious. If you break into someone's cabin in New Brunswick and steal their shotgun or you break into their house or apartment in Toronto and steal their shotgun, it's serious. Can you comment from the urban-rural...where you represent both? We have heard from the urban police, but I'd like to hear from the rural perspective on this issue of break and enter and robbery?
I'm going to drive you all crazy here, but I want to comment on the statistics again. I don't want to let the time pass without at least commenting on the suggestion that violent crime is increasing.
I do accept from Professor Lee his perspective. Looking at the data, it's very clear that from 1962, when Beaver Cleaver made it into the television world, crime did increase. But the Criminal Code changed, people changed; lots of sociological things happened.
As I look at the data--and I hope you'll agree with me--by the time we got to about 1990 or 1992, things changed. The data changed, the statistics changed. As of that point in time, in Canada and in California and in Florida, if you look at the charts provided by Professor Lee, all of that violent crime starts on a downward trend.
So as I read it, I can honestly say that for the last 14 years, violent crime has been decreasing. I will accept, however, your point that if you go back to 1962, you can see a trend of increase, which terminated around 1992.
I don't think we should be legislating for the fifties here, or the sixties, or the seventies. I'd like to legislate for the millennium, and that shows a decrease.
Have I described this relatively accurately, to your satisfaction?
My question is for Mr. Lee, Mr. Cannavino or Mr. Stuesser.
When we want to evaluate a justice system, we have to know how others perceive us. In the United States, one New York judge gave one criminal convicted of aggravated assault the choice of one year in prison in the United States or three years in Canada. The individual chose three years of prison in Canada. It's obvious: it's because we're permissive. Is that out of greatness of spirit? Is it a quality? I don't know, but for the moment, we have a problem, and that's how people perceive us.
When a drug trafficker has to land because we know he's transporting drugs, he won't land in Vermont. He'll do everything possible to land in Beauce, because he knows his sentence won't be as harsh.
There's also another factor that bothers me a bit. The Attorney General of Ontario, Mr. Bryant, appeared before our committee. He seemed to agree with us, and you mentioned him in your brief. He represents 16 million of the 32 million inhabitants of Canada, approximately half of Canada. I imagine he speaks on behalf of at least 50 percent of the population. What's strange is that he's a Liberal. In his region, there are other federal Liberals and New Democrats. So I imagine they must talk to each other because they're close to each other.
Mr. Cannavino, the bill we want to pass concerns serious crimes. However, in Montreal — here I'm referring to Mr. Chartrand's remarks — there are now gangs of blacks. That's the fashion. There are others in Toronto. We know there will be more blacks in prison, because they hold the power in the Montreal region.
In your view, is that the only justification? Mr. Chartrand said earlier that it was senseless, because there will be more people from certain ethnic groups in prison. I'd like to know whether you believe that Bill C-10 has a colour or whether it will help you solve the gang problem that exists right now.
Exactly. That's the exception to the rule. We're all good people, except the ones who were arrested last week.
It's not just a problem in Toronto; it's a problem in Montreal and Winnipeg. There's a problem in the cities and towns. They say the crime rate is going down. Then explain to me why citizens now feel less safe than 20 years ago.
Twenty years ago, when I walked in Old Montreal, on St. Catherine Street, I felt very comfortable, Today, I wouldn't do it at 11 o'clock, midnight or 1:00 a.m. I definitely wouldn't do it because now there's more violence.
You referred to an event that occurred not long ago, when an individual was offered the choice of serving one year in prison in the United States or three years in Canada. That's not the only person that's happened to. How many extradition applications have there been from people who want to come back to the country? Why do they want to come back to the country? First, because our prisons are a little more like hotels, and, second, because jail time in Canada is much shorter than in the United States.
The proof is the case of one individual who was arrested in the United States and sentenced to 15 years in prison. He was extradited to Canada. Since his crime wasn't considered a violent crime, he was released after serving one-sixth of his sentence. One month after he got out, he was killed in a hotel in downtown Toronto.
When I was on the Carcajou squad — we made a reputation for ourselves — and we were dealing with a trafficker, we hoped he'd go through the United States because we knew that, if he stayed in Canada, things would be easy for him and he wouldn't get a tough sentence. So we had them charged in the United States because we knew they'd be gone for 25 years. It would have been unthinkable for them to get long sentences in Canada.
You'll see what's going to happen next.
Mr. Réal Ménard: What about Mom Boucher?
Mr. Tony Cannavino: We took care of Mom Boucher. We got him in Quebec. He had run the show for too long.
I'm glad Mr. Ménard referred to the case of Mom Boucher. With tougher laws on organized crime, that's what we've done and we've used them. The gentleman in question is there for a long time, ad vitam æternam!