Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale.
We have heard all the rhetoric from the other side time and time again. I have seen this in committee. I have the privilege to serve on the justice committee. We have seen on Bill , which would bring in mandatory minimum penalties for gun crimes, how all of the opposition, the NDP, the Liberals and Bloc, are united in opposing getting tough on crime, even though the NDP and the Liberals ran on a platform in the last election of getting tough on crime. Actually, they were promising to bring in measures that were even tougher than what our bill contains. For them to now say that our bill goes too far, is ridiculous.
We saw the same thing with Bill , the bill that would have brought an end to conditional sentences for people who commit serious crimes, like arson, break and enter into a home and car theft. Again the opposition ganged together to gut that bill.
I think Canadians are saying enough is enough. Three of the four parties in the House were elected with a mandate to get tougher on crime. The NDP, the Liberals and the Conservatives said that we would get tougher on crime.
A few months later, we brought forward Bill dealing with conditional sentences, Bill dealing with mandatory minimum sentences, and legislation dealing with raising the age of protection. When our party is putting forward the legislative initiatives to protect Canadians, we see the opposition parties dragging their feet, standing in the way and flip-flopping, when they should be cooperating with us so we can make Canada safer.
I reject the premise of some of the remarks today that crime is not getting worse. The crime statistics that were just released yesterday say that violent crime is up, gun crime is up and gang-related crime is up. I do not say that to be an alarmist. It is just that we on this side of the House have decided that we will face the facts that Canadians want us to take crime seriously, that crime is serious and that effective measures need to be put in place.
I want to speak today to Bill , a bill involving dangerous offenders, a bill that addresses the worst of the worst, as it were, when it comes to criminal offenders, those who prey on innocent Canadians, those who have been shown to be perhaps repeat offenders and those who commit the most serious crimes. This is not about any low level crime. It is the most serious crimes and the most serious offenders.
The bill responds to our government's goal of tackling crime by strengthening measures to protect families from offenders who are of a high risk to offend sexually or violently in our communities. Most of these amendments are the result of changes that the provinces, the territories and other stakeholders, including victim's groups, have supported. That is important to note.
The bill amends the dangerous offender and long term offender provisions, as well as sections 810.1 and 810.2 of the Criminal Code dealing with peace bonds.
The dangerous and long term offender amendments in the bill seek to strengthen and enhance those provisions. One of the amendments deals with applications for a dangerous offender hearing under part XXIV the Criminal Code. It requires a prosecutor to advise a court, as soon as possible after a finding of guilt, which is important to note, and before the sentence is imposed, whether it intends on proceeding with an application.
However, for this provision to apply, the prosecutor must be of the opinion that the predicate, or current offence, is a serious personal injury offence as defined in the code, and the offender was convicted at least twice previously of a designated offence as newly defined in section 752, and was sentenced to at least two years of imprisonment for these prior convictions. This person has to have committed a serious crime for which he or she were tried and sentenced twice before for this particular provision to come into play. When that is the case, the crown prosecutor must indicate whether he or she will be pursuing the designation of dangerous offender.
Another amendment ensures that a court cannot refuse to order an assessment where it is of the opinion that there are reasonable grounds to believe that an offender might be found to be a dangerous or long term offender. This was a technical amendment recommended by provincial and territorial ministers of justice.
The bill also imposes a reverse onus on the offender in some situations where a crown prosecutor has sought a dangerous offender designation. If a prosecutor is able to satisfy a court that an individual was convicted of a third primary designated serious sexual or violent offence, one of the most serious offences under the Criminal Code, the crown is deemed to have met its case that the individual is a dangerous offender and the individual must then prove on a balance of probabilities that he or she does not meet those criteria. We are shifting the onus, after a third offence, on to the offenders to show why they should not be designated as dangerous offenders. This brings some balance and fairness into our system.
However, the bill also clarifies that even when the conditions to make a dangerous offender designation have been met, the court must consider whether a lesser sentence, including a long term offender designation, would be adequate and neither the prosecutor nor the offender has the onus of proof in that matter.
These amendments clearly strengthen the dangerous and long term offender provisions and will ensure that prosecutors can more readily seek a designation for violent and/or sexual criminals who will in turn receive some of the toughest sanctions in the Criminal Code.
I also want to touch on peace bonds. Bill seeks to amend the provisions related to section 810.1 peace bonds for the prevention of sexual offences against children. The member for spoke passionately about his desire to protect children from sexual offenders and this bill deals with just that. I commend him and all members who have taken this up and are concerned about protecting children. Also, section 810.2 peace bonds target more serious violent and/or sexual offences.
These types of peace bonds are preventive in nature. They are instruments that are available to law enforcement officials to protect the public. It is not necessary for an offender to have committed a criminal offence for a judge to make such an order. These orders require individuals to agree to specific conditions to keep the peace and be of good behaviour. They aim to protect individuals and the general public from persons who are a danger of committing sexual offences against children or are likely to commit a serious personal injury offence. These situations we know all too often do exist.
Once granted, failure or refusal to enter into peace bonds could result in an immediate term of imprisonment not exceeding 12 months. They can be renewed and breaches of any of the conditions in the peace bond would be considered a criminal offence and can be prosecuted in any provincial or territorial court with criminal jurisdiction, providing up to a two year prison sentence.
Specifically on a peace bond, where there is fear of a sexual offence, the current section of the code allows anyone who fears, on reasonable grounds, that another person will commit an offence under specific provisions of the code against a person under the age of 14 years, may lay an information before a provincial court judge for the purpose of having the defendant enter into a peace bond. The specific offences covered include sexual assaults, sexual assaults with a weapon, sexual interference, invitation to sexual touch and child pornography offences.
Obviously, those are very serious offences and this bill seeks to protect young children from them. The peace bond can set out certain areas, for example, where an offender is not allowed to go.
Bill also clarifies and outlines several additional conditions available to a judge if the judge considers it desirable to secure good conduct from the offender.
Our new government was just elected in January. We said that we would tackle crime to make our streets safer. What is a bit ironic is that the NDP and the Liberals also said that they would take steps to tackle crime but we have seen no evidence of that so far in this session.
Bill is one of the many initiatives the government has taken toward attaining the goal of making our streets safer. We consider offenders, who are at high risk of offending sexually or violently, to be a very serious threat to public safety.
I support this bill, as do all members on this side. I hope other members of the House will see how important these provisions are and how they are necessary measures that can be implemented as soon as possible to protect Canadians, protect children and protect society from the worst offenders.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill .
Our government has already presented a number of important measures aimed at furthering our key election commitment to tackle crime. Among many other promises in our election platform, we said we would “create a presumption-of-dangerous-offender designation for anyone convicted and sentenced to federal custody for three violent or sexual offences”. Bill seeks to fulfill this specific election promise. We said we would do it, and we are doing it.
Our Conservative government believes in treating criminals justly, but justice demands that after repeatedly offending against society, violent criminals must be stopped. After three strikes, the onus is on the violent criminal to prove he is no longer a danger to society. We do not believe in the revolving door justice that the Liberals promoted over the past 13 years, a system whereby serious offenders were able to commit violent and sexual crimes repeatedly and then were set free repeatedly to victimize even more Canadians.
We believe the primary responsibility of government is to protect Canadians. That is exactly what Bill will help us do. Bill C-27 strengthens existing measures that are available to protect our loved ones, our neighbours and our communities from repeat offenders.
I am going to get into some technical aspects of the bill, but they are actually very important.
The first portion of the bill deals with applications for dangerous and long term offender hearings under part XXIV of the Criminal Code. The amendments impose a duty on prosecutors to advise a court whether they intend to proceed with a dangerous or long term offender application as soon as possible after a finding of guilt, and before sentencing, when the following criteria have been met: first, they are of the opinion that the predicate or current offence is a “serious personal injury offence” as defined in section 752; second, the offender was convicted at least twice previously of a “designated offence” as newly defined in section 752 and was sentenced to at least two years for each of those convictions.
Under the current legislative framework, a court will order a designation hearing based on whether the individual has been convicted of a serious personal injury offence and whether there is a reasonable likelihood that the individual will be found to be a dangerous or long term offender.
An amendment recommended by provincial and territorial ministers of justice ensures that a court cannot refuse to order an assessment when it is of the opinion that there are reasonable grounds to believe that an offender might be found to be a dangerous or long term offender.
As well, an amendment is made to mandate a court, following an application by a prosecutor if there are reasonable grounds to believe that the offender might be a dangerous or long term offender, to order a psychiatric assessment before the hearing can proceed. This was previously done at the discretion of the court, but no longer.
Another amendment allows the court to extend up to 30 days the period within which a report must be filed if there are reasonable grounds to do so.
Of particular interest to members of the House may be the amendments in the bill providing for a reverse onus in dangerous offender designation hearings.
The amendments provide that the Crown is deemed to have satisfied the court that the offender meets the prerequisites for a dangerous offender designation once the court is satisfied of the following four principles: that the offender has had two prior convictions from the new list of 12 serious sexual or violent primary designated offences in section 752; that the previous convictions carried a sentence of at least two years; that the current or predicate offence must also be one of those primary offences; and finally, that the predicate offence would otherwise merit at least a two year sentence.
There are some serious hurdles here that need to be overcome, but we are confident that they can be overcome.
However, the amendments give the offender an opportunity to rebut this presumption on a balance of probabilities. The bill also clarifies that even when the conditions to make a dangerous offender designation have been met, the court must consider whether a lesser sentence, including a long term offender designation, would be adequate, and neither the prosecutor nor the offender has the onus of proof in that matter.
These amendments will enable prosecutors to more readily seek a designation for violent and/or sexual criminals. They will also encourage consistency in prosecuting when considering a dangerous or long term offender designation.
I would now like to speak briefly about the amendments to the provisions dealing with peace bonds. Bill amends section 810.1, dealing with peace bonds for the prevention of sexual offences against children, and section 810.2, dealing with peace bonds for more serious violent and sexual offences.
Peace bonds are tools available to law enforcement for public protection against high risk individuals who are likely to commit a sexual offence against children or personal injury to others. Current sections 810.1 and 810.2 of the Criminal Code may allow anyone who has fears on reasonable grounds to lay an information before a provincial court judge for the purpose of having the defendant enter into a peace bond to keep the peace and to comply with any other conditions the court might impose that are designed to protect the public from future harm.
The section 810.1 peace bond is designed to protect against sexual offences against children under the age of 14, while section 810.2 targets individuals who may commit “a serious personal injury offence”. A serious personal injury offence is defined in the Criminal Code as including offences that are pursued by way of indictment, such as first degree or second degree murder involving violence, or conduct endangering or likely to endanger life or safety, or where the offender could be sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment or more.
Alternatively, a serious personal injury offence also includes a conviction for sexual assault, sexual assault with a weapon or aggravated sexual assault. Under the current legislative framework, a judge may order that a person enter into either of these peace bonds for a period not exceeding 12 months if the judge is satisfied that the informant has reasonable grounds to fear that another person will commit a relevant offence. This means a sexual offence against a child for the section 810.1 peace bond or a serious personal injury against another person for the section 810.2 peace bond.
The amendments that we are bringing forward significantly extend the maximum duration of these peace bonds, from 12 to 24 months in certain situations.
For the section 810.1 peace bond, this longer peace bond will be available where a judge is also satisfied that the person was convicted previously of a sexual offence in respect of a victim who is under the age of 14.
For the section 810.2 peace bond, the longer duration can apply where the court is satisfied that the offender has previously been convicted of a serious personal injury offence. Currently, the judge can also order that the defendant comply with any conditions that are reasonable in the circumstances to ensure the offender does not commit harm. These often include conditions to not have contact with potential victims or to stay away from certain places and to report regularly to the police or probation workers.
The amendments that we are putting forward will clarify that broader conditions can be imposed on defendants than those that are currently described. The additional conditions outlined in the amendments relating to both types of peace bonds include requiring a defendant to, for example, participate in treatment programs or wear an electronic monitoring device if the Attorney General consents, or remain within a specific geographic area unless permission to leave is granted by a judge, or remain at a residence at specific times, or abstain from consuming illegal drugs, alcohol or intoxicating substances. Clearly we are placing more options before the courts to prevent people from reoffending.
In addition, the very subsections in the two provisions regarding the types of conditions that can be considered will be amended so that they are worded more consistently. There are a number of wording differences between sections 810.1 and 810.2.
While there are certainly differences in who these provisions target, many of the wording differences have caused some difficulties in interpretation in the courts. As such, all provinces and territories have requested amendments that would provide a more uniform approach.
It is proposed, for example, that the judge must now consider, for both types of peace bonds, where they previously did so only for 810.2, whether it is desirable in the interests of safety to prohibit the defendant from possessing certain items, including firearms, or whether it is desirable to require the defendant to report to the correctional authority of a province or police authority.
The amendments in Bill will aid prosecutors considering a dangerous or long term offender designation. The bill will also enhance the ability of law enforcement officials to supervise and control offenders longer and more stringently if they are at high risk of reoffending.
Our three strikes law, Bill , puts the protection of the public first, ends revolving door justice for violent offenders, and meets our election promise to Canadians. I ask all members to support this bill.
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the intervention on the part of the Speaker and my hon. colleague from . Certainly, the hon. members opposite have no interest in dealing with facts or in dealing with the Constitution or in dealing with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. For whatever else the Liberal Party stands for, it is the party of the Constitution and the party of our Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Let me turn to the bill which, I submit, is deeply flawed. Members who might be watching this debate, and I cannot imagine why they would be, but maybe they are, should know that in the Criminal Code, as it presently exists, there is a dangerous offender section. It is section 753. It says:
--definition of that expression in section 752 and the offender constitutes a threat to the life, safety or physical or mental well-being of other persons on the basis of evidence--
That is evidence, gentlemen:
(i) a pattern of repetitive behaviour--
(ii) a pattern of persistent aggressive behaviour by the offender--
(iii) any behaviour by the offender, associated with the offence for which he or she has been convicted, that is of such a brutal nature as to compel the conclusion that the offender’s behaviour in the future is unlikely to be inhibited by normal standards of behavioural restraint;--
That already exists in the Criminal Code. This bill does not change that. This bill stays with that standard of behaviour.
What is going to happen if this bill passes? First of all, a crown attorney is going to have to give a notice. He is going to give a notice presumably after two convictions. Right now there does not need to be two convictions. It can be done after one conviction, if it can be established that the individual is going to be a threat to society. In fact, an indeterminate sentence can be obtained based upon simply one conviction. The crown attorney is still forced to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that those elements of that individual's behaviour threaten society at large.
What will happen here is that the crown attorney is going to give notice. Think about that for a second. The defence counsel probably has someone who is a pretty bad person, probably has evidenced behaviour so much so that he or she has been convicted of at least two offences. That person is now looking at an indeterminate sentence, not a determinate sentence. In other words, throw the person away.
Now the defence counsel is going to say to himself or herself, “Well, we are going to fight this and we are going to fight this hard”. There are no deals and no convictions.
What will happen then? The defence counsel is in effect going to force the crown attorney to accept the plea to something lesser than possibly is appropriate under the circumstances. Now we are looking at an indeterminate sentence rather than a determinate sentence. Instead of the individual going away for an appropriate period of time on the apprehension that they may go away for a much longer period of time, the defence counsel will try and plead it down to something less.
Purists in the chamber may think that this is not very good at all. On the other hand, that is the way the court system works. I do not see that changing any time soon.
We will have a perverse consequence. In fact, the courts are going to get clogged, the crown attorneys are going to have to make deals that they do not want to make, and the courts, ending up clogged, are going to actually process fewer people who have been charged with offences.
The reaction of the crown attorney is either twofold. The crown attorney can either say, “Okay, let us bring it on and let us have the fight” or it is going to be, “Let us make a deal time”. Those are the two choices that the crown attorney will be faced with. The likelihood is that the crown attorney is going to accept something of a lesser plea because in fact the provinces are not going to be greatly more resourced in order to be able to deal with this legislation.
We can ignore that kind of advice on the part of the experts that come before or will come before the committee, or we can take it into consideration when drafting a piece of legislation.
The risk is that it puts the entire section 752 in jeopardy. One can go to the bank on it. It will be absolutely certain that if in fact this section were to pass, if in fact an individual were to be convicted under this section, this legislation would be challenged by defence counsel in court under a charter application. There is an absolute certainty of that.
We put at risk the entire section 752. The court might either strike this bill or it might strike the entire section. We again have an ironic consequence that we would lose the entire dangerous offender section and have nothing, which I do not think any party in this House would support that kind of consequence.
We are playing a high stakes game here with things that clearly are of serious consequence. I do not think hon. members need to take my word for it or anybody else in this chamber. They might actually listen to what other people who have expertise in this area actually say about it.
If I may take some time, I would like to reference David Paciocco, a professor of law at the University of Ottawa. He begins his speech by saying that the best that could be said about this bill is that it is an amalgam of unenforceable and constitutionally suspect provisions. It puts the burden of three strikes on the accused to prove that he or she does not pose that kind of danger that the dangerous offenders do.
In other words, it reverses the burden. We are reversing the burden on somebody who has to prove that they will not likely do this action. When we do that we, in effect, are having to prove a negative. If we are having to prove a negative, the courts that are constitutionally charged with reviewing this under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms will find it very difficult to accept that this is constitutionally acceptable.
The individual accused and convicted has to prove that he or she is incapable of restraining himself or herself, likely to cause death or injury in the future, have a substantial or general degree of indifference to the consequences of his or her behaviour, and be marked with an incorrigible brutality.
The professor goes on to say that, in effect, judges are forced to find that offenders pose the kinds of risks I just described not only in cases where there is a reasonable doubt but even in cases where it is equally probable that the offender poses no such risk. Therein lies the difficulty that this bill poses for those members in this party who actually have to read the bill in the context of the Constitution and in the context of how courts actually behave.
I listened to some of the rhetoric from the other side and I wondered whether in fact those members ever actually go to courts and actually see how they operate. Do they see what the dockets are like for these judges, some 200 or 300 cases on a docket at any given time? Do they realize that plea bargaining is in fact a way of life in courts and that we would have no justice system at all, that it would grind to a halt if in fact every section of the Criminal Code was constitutionally challenged? All we have done is raised a huge flag for defence counsel to challenge this constitutionally.
The professor goes on to say that if this were true, the provision would not only fail to meet the rational connection test, it would also fail to meet the ultimate balancing that is done under the proportionality test. The provision costs to the liberty interest of the convict would outweigh the benefits the provision would produce. In either event, section 1 would not justify the reverse onus.
The court is continually balancing the rights of the accused versus the safety and security of society. It is called the proportionality test, and it is a constant factor in any judge's mind. Does the sentence or the proposal for an indeterminate sentence weigh against the legitimate concerns for the safety and security of the larger society?
I hear the rhetoric about getting tough on crime. I respectfully submit to members opposite that they should get a little smarter on crime. They should not put legislation on the floor which will almost inevitably be challenged in the courts or which will almost inevitably see charter challenges from defence counsel.
I submit from our side of the aisle that there is no way we can support this legislation. It does not meet the proportionality test. It does not meet the constitutional test. We cannot reverse the onus in a situation of this kind. We are, in effect, saying to the courts that the person should be put away indeterminately and that person would have to prove they would not offend in the future. This is very poorly drafted legislation. It deserves to fail.
I would be interested in any questions that members opposite may want to propose.
Mr. Speaker, to finish up on that last point before I begin my remarks, there are multiple precedents in the Criminal Code for reverse onus provisions. Moreover, the burden is on the accused, an accused who has already been found guilty of the crime. That is key. The person has already been found guilty.
The bill is not stupid. It is the legal analysis of the hon. member opposite that more readily meets this description.
It is humorous to watch the member anticipate, almost with glee, the efforts of defence lawyers. He talks about the amount of time he spent in court, but who we really need to be listening to are the citizens of Canada who send us to this place, who sit and watch this on television and who may have spent no time in the courtroom, but who know, because common sense tells them, that this is the right thing to do for people who commit multiple, heinous crimes. We are talking about the worst of the worst here. We are talking about the Peter Whitmores of this world.
This is part of what sparked this type of courageous bill from the Minister of Justice. We are talking about locking up indeterminately, for at least seven years, the worst of the worst. Canadians coast to coast to coast know it is the right thing to do. It is only the Liberals, the Bloc Québécois and the NDP members who do not know that it is the right thing to do.
It is my privilege today to speak in favour of Bill , which proposes to strengthen and clarify certain provisions relating to dangerous and long term offenders as well as two types of peace bonds. This bill seeks to accomplish the following reforms.
First, it proposes a number of changes to the dangerous offender provisions of the Criminal Code. These changes are designed to address concerns that since 2003 there have been problems encountered in securing dangerous offender designations. These changes include a new reverse onus provision, a new provision that codifies the determination of fitness of sentence, a new declaration provision and some procedural changes regarding the psychiatric assessment.
Second, this bill will introduce a number of amendments to toughen the sections 810.1 and 810.2 peace bonds that allow police and crown prosecutors to impose extensive conditions on individuals in our communities who have a high risk of committing serious sexual or violent offences.
Certainly these reforms are significant in the overall context of offender management, which is the federal responsibility of Correctional Service Canada, or CSC, within the Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness. My speech today will focus on the Correctional Service, Canada's management of high risk offenders, and how the proposed provisions will assist these officials to monitor and supervise criminals who are at risk to commit violent and/or sexual offences.
The role of CSC is very important to highlight in the context of the amendments to the sentencing legislation. CSC is generally responsible for the management of all offenders who receive federal sentences of detention, that is, sentences of two years or more in a penitentiary.
Once an offender is sentenced, the role of CSC commences, in balancing assisting offenders in their rehabilitation with measures of control. This role continues throughout the duration of the sentence. Public safety is the paramount consideration.
Upon intake, each offender is assessed to determine appropriate interventions or programs. The assessment is multi-faceted and incorporates risk-based historical factors as well as the need for correctional intervention.
Risk-based historical factors are derived from tools such as criminal records and any sex offence history, as well as guidelines established by the Correctional Service to assess serious harm. The need for correctional intervention is determined through an analysis of factors such as employment, marital and family status, substance abuse, community functioning and the attitude of the offender.
The factors used to determine intervention are dynamic. As such, they require continuous monitoring to establish risks for reoffending posed by the offender at any given time. When all the factors are considered, offenders can be identified as high risk, the level of intervention required to achieve safe and timely reintegration into society can be determined, and a correctional plan can be established for the offender.
The correctional plan provides information about the management of an offender's sentence from beginning to end. It may include correctional interventions such as the referral to one of a range of accredited correctional programs, including the violence prevention program or the national substance abuse program, in order to meet the varying needs of offenders.
Other interventions may include increased levels of contact between an offender and a parole officer, psychological counselling, and community based substance abuse programs. These interventions are crucial in assisting the successful reintegration of offenders.
I have briefly outlined the role of the Correctional Service at intake. I will now speak about parole offenders generally and how this relates to the legislation before the House today.
Generally, an offender may or may not be granted parole eligibility by a judge in accordance with the Criminal Code. Offenders who are granted parole eligibility must serve one-third of their sentence before they are eligible to be released on parole. For certain violent offenders a judge may impose parole eligibility at one-half of the sentence or 10 years, whichever is less. For dangerous offenders, there is no parole eligibility for the first seven years and then every two years thereafter.
The offences that carry a parole eligibility requirement of one-half of the offender's sentence must be pursued by way of indictment and may not be a minimum punishment, and the offender must receive a sentence of imprisonment of two years or more. These offences include some of the most egregious crimes, such as sexual interference and sexual exploitation involving victims under 14 years of age.
The paroled release of an offender has a graduated approach rather than a cold release into the community. For instance, conditions may be recommended to the National Parole Board, such as imposing a curfew on the offender, to reduce the risk that the parolee will reoffend.
Offenders who have not been granted parole eligibility under the Criminal Code are eligible for statutory release. This is an inmate's legal entitlement, with exceptions for inmates serving life or indeterminate sentences to be released into the community after serving two-thirds of their sentences.
All federal offenders are to be reviewed for parole by the National Parole Board, if eligible, unless they waive this right. The board, in determining parole, is guided by a list of principles, including that the protection of society is the paramount consideration in all cases. The board must also consider certain criteria to grant parole. It must be of the opinion that an offender will not reoffend.
The National Parole Board must consider whether there is an undue risk to society before the expiration of the offender's sentence. It must also be satisfied that the release of an offender will contribute to the protection of society by facilitating the reintegration of the offender into society as a law-abiding citizen.
For dangerous offenders, the onus is on the offender to prove that he or she poses no risk to the public if parole is granted. Dangerous offenders are very rarely granted even limited parole. According to the National Parole Board, about 99% of all dangerous offender parole applications are rejected outright. This compares to, for example, parole applications for offenders convicted of first degree and second degree murder, whose parole applications are denied about 65% of the time.
As a result, the dangerous offender indeterminate sentence is often referred to as the toughest penalty in Canadian criminal law. Three main areas are considered during the board's review: an assessment of an offender's criminal and social history; the offender's institutional behaviour and results of interventions; and the release plan and community management strategy.
With respect to an offender's criminal and social history, many factors are assessed, such as the details of the offence, criminal history, substance abuse, and physical and mental health. Institutional behaviour and intervention assessment considers any evidence of a change in the offender as a result of the benefit of any treatment or program participation while incarcerated, as well as the offender's understanding of the current offence and previous criminal behaviour.
When assessing the release plan and community management strategy, National Parole Board members will consider the availability of programs or counselling, supervision controls, and whether special conditions are required to manage risk factors in the community.
Given all of these considerations and criteria, along with internal board policies, parole may not be granted to those offenders who are viewed as high risk and represent an undue risk to reoffend.
Canadians across the country have told us that they want to take action on crime. With this landmark legislation, we are delivering, but we cannot do the job alone. We need the support of the opposition MPs to help us pass this important legislation that we have introduced to tackle crime.
Despite grand overtures and rhetoric, the opposition has done little to actually get tough on crime in this Parliament. The opposition talked a lot about getting tough on crime during the election campaign, but this is really about what happens after the election. It is about how members stand in the House and represent their constituents and how they vote.
There is only one party that is sticking up for safe streets and safe communities and sticking up for the safety of our children and our seniors, and that is the Conservative Party of Canada and this government. I call upon the opposition to stop watering down crime legislation and do as it promised in the election campaign. Let us get on with the job of making our streets safe for all Canadians.
I would like to mention a few members in the House who are on board. They know the importance of getting tough on crime. First of all, they are led by the , but we also have the member for , the member for , the member for , the member for , the member for , the member for , the member for , and the list goes on with every single member on this side of the House. I see the member for looking at me. I see the member for . They all want credit and they are all working extremely hard on this file to get tough on crime. I wish the members opposite would join us in that venture.
I thought I was going to have 10 minutes, but it turns out that I have 20 minutes so I want to talk to the House a little about how crime affects people in my riding of Palliser and across the entire province of Saskatchewan.
In case members do not know, Saskatchewan continues to be the crime capital of Canada under an NDP government. For the information of the House and the members opposite, I would like to let Canadians know what life is like under an NDP government.
Per capita, Saskatchewan's overall crime rate is higher than Ontario's. Saskatchewan is the murder capital of Canada. That is shocking. Saskatchewan has the highest rate of violent offences of any province in Canada. Saskatchewan continues to have the highest property crime rate in Canada. Crime rates for robbery in my home city of Regina are the third highest of any city in the country. Regina has the highest number of car thefts in Canada, again per capita.
All of us in this chamber and everyone watching at home recognize that this is a disgrace. The people of Palliser and the people of Saskatchewan have a right to feel safe in their homes and on their streets. Instead, every year they find that they live in the most dangerous province in Canada, thanks to years of provincial NDP and federal Liberal governments.
One would think that members of the opposition, when presented with a bill like Bill , would support our government's tough new measures to crack down on dangerous offenders. Again, we are talking about the worst of the worst. We are talking about two dozen individuals a year. That is what we are talking about.
The members opposite and the members in the NDP refuse to support this bill, a bill that puts the onus on offenders who have already been convicted of three violent or sexual offences to justify why they should be released into a community. This is perfectly reasonable.
People at home recognize that it is perfectly reasonable. In fact, many of my constituents have contacted me wondering why we give people three chances. This is the Canadian way. We have a heart and we try to rehabilitate people, but there is a certain point at which we have to say enough is enough. Canadians are with us. To me and to the citizens of Palliser, the approach of this government makes a lot of sense.
That is not what we are hearing from the opposition benches today. I cannot believe that those members are not going to support this bill. Canada's new government is ready to take immediate action to get tough on dangerous offenders. I ask the members opposite, particularly the members of the NDP, to stand up today and join our efforts.
I ask that they do the right thing and support our efforts to make our neighbourhoods safe, but perhaps that is wishful thinking. After all, let us look at the record of the NDP when it comes to crime and criminal justice bills. The NDP joined with the Liberals to gut an important piece of our government's legislation, Bill , which would have eliminated house arrest for arsonists, car thieves and criminals who break into the homes of our citizens.
It sounds perfectly reasonable to me that if someone burns down a building, steals a car or breaks into someone's home, they should probably go to jail. The members in the opposition parties do not think so. They think these offenders should be eligible to serve their sentences perhaps in the comfort of their own living rooms. Canadians know that is wrong.
I know the NDP members like to advocate softer sentences for criminals and make excuses for why we should not get tough on crime but Canadians understand that gutting important crime bills and failing to stand behind legislation, like Bill , is simply wrong.
When it comes to Bill , the NDP justice critic did not do the right thing and voice his support for our bill. Instead, he criticized the Conservative government for bringing forward legislation to target dangerous offenders. He suggested that the bill, including its reverse onus provisions, violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
However, during the last election campaign the NDP said that it supported a reverse onus on bail for all gun related crimes. The NDP members cannot have it all ways. They cannot say one thing during an election campaign and then do a flip-flop once they come to this chamber. While I am on this topic, I should mention that the former Liberal justice minister also dismissed this bill outright. It is shameful.
It is clear that the NDP are content to say anything to get elected but when it comes to standing behind their words and doing the right thing they simply cannot be trusted. I think the facts speak for themselves. There is only one party in Canada today that is standing up for safer communities, safer neighbourhoods and safer streets and that is the Conservative Party of Canada and this new government.
I am so proud to support Bill on behalf of the citizens of Palliser. It is the right thing to do. It is the tough action on crime that Palliser residents have called for. What I hear all the time is that enough is enough, and this is the right thing to do.
I would like to take this opportunity during Remembrance Week and with Remembrance Day on Saturday to urge all Canadians to share the story of remembrance and to take the time to remember our veterans and those who currently serve in the Canadian Forces around the world, including our brave men and women in Afghanistan. The veterans and the members of the Canadian Forces are people to whom we owe everything that we enjoy today. We owe everything to those individuals. I urge members to take the time to remember, as I am sure all Canadians will.