It is my pleasure. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Once again I am pleased to appear before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights to answer questions with respect to the supplementary estimates.
I am pleased as well, of course, to have the Deputy Minister of Justice, Mr. John Sims, with me.
Mr. Chairman, as you know, as Minister of Justice and Attorney General, I have made it a priority for the Department of Justice to develop legislation and policy that addresses crime more effectively and increases the confidence of Canadians in the justice system. This work fits squarely within the context of ensuring the accessibility, efficiency, and fairness in our system of justice; promoting respect for the rule of law; and providing legal counsel to the government.
In a broader sense, as minister of this government, I am also committed to the priorities of Canadians. This involves being accountable and spending taxpayers' money wisely, delivering real benefits to ordinary working people and their families, defending and advancing Canada's interests and values in the world, tackling crime, and making our neighbourhoods safer.
This last priority has been the focus of much of my work, in conjunction with my colleague, the Honourable Stockwell Day, Minister of Public Safety, and I'm pleased with some of the progress we've made. In the past 21 months we've passed legislation to impose serious penalties on street racing; we have passed legislation to end conditional sentences for serious personal injuries, and I wish that bill had gone farther, but nonetheless, Mr. Chairman, it is now the law of this country; we have invested in crime prevention community projects that target youth; and we've introduced a national anti-drug strategy with an investment of new resources in the amount of $64 million over the next two budget years.
We have remained committed to our goal of tackling crime, and we have continued to pursue this goal vigorously since Parliament resumed, because crime affects everyone, from families to businesses to entire communities. Time and time again, Canadians have said they want a strong criminal justice system, and in aid of that, we introduced the Tackling Violent Crime Act as one of our first orders of business in this new session. It reintroduces the significant crime bills that were extensively debated during the last session but never became law. These include providing mandatory jail sentences and creating tougher bail provisions for those who commit serious gun crimes; increasing the age of protection for sexual activity from 14 to 16; cracking down on drug and alcohol-impaired driving; and ensuring that high-risk and dangerous offenders face tougher consequences when they are sentenced and better monitoring of post-release to prevent them from re-offending again and again.
As you know, all of these measures were introduced in the last Parliament, and last night I was pleased to see that bill pass the House of Commons at the report stage with considerable support.
In addition, Mr. Chairman, as you would know, we tabled three new bills in the last week that seek to protect our communities on a number of different fronts. First of all, we introduced amendments to the Youth Criminal Justice Act that would include deterrence and denunciation sentencing principles and that would change the current pre-trial detention provision in the act, making it easier to detain youth in custody prior to their trials if the youth are a danger to society. These changes reflect the expectations of Canadians. They want to be assured that young offenders, just like adult offenders, will face meaningful consequences for serious crime.
Second, we tabled legislation that proposes mandatory jail time for people involved in serious drug crimes. We know that illicit drugs are dangerous and destructive. They are infiltrating our neighbourhoods, turning suburban homes into grow ops and crystal meth labs, and we know they are directly implicated in the deaths of many Canadians every year, many of whom are young people.
Drug producers and dealers threaten the safety of our communities. They must face tougher penalties, so we're proposing a one-year sentence if offenders are dealing drugs such as marijuana for organized crime purposes or if a weapon or violence is involved. There would be a minimum two-year sentence if they're selling drugs like cocaine, heroin, or methamphetamines to young people, or dealing drugs where youth congregate, or running a large marijuana grow op of at least 500 plants.
Getting tough on drug producers and dealers is part of our national anti-drug strategy that was announced in October. But we also want to prevent people from becoming enslaved by drugs and to free people from drugs when they get hooked. So this bill contains an exception that allows a drug treatment court to impose a lesser penalty than a mandatory minimum sentence if the offender successfully completes an approved drug treatment program and if the offence does not involve any of the aggravating factors such as violence.
In addition, Mr. Chairman, you would know that we introduced an amendment to the Criminal Code to address the growing problem of identity theft. This is a growing problem. It's estimated that Canadians lose $2 billion every year as a direct result of identify theft, so we are making it an offence to obtain, possess, or traffic other people's identity information if there is an intention to use that information to commit a crime. In my opinion, this is a very reasonable and important step forward. It closes a gap that exists within the Criminal Code. I've had law enforcement agencies across this country point out to me that yes, of course, for the person who is using a forged credit card, that is committing an offence in Canada, and it always has been. But those individuals who assemble that information, distribute it, or sell it to facilitate the commission of a crime have not been caught up to this point, and we have to get them as well.
Mr. Chairman, we're committed to protecting Canada's citizens, but we also are obligated to do our part in preventing crime. By giving options to young people at risk, we can help ensure that they are not drawn into a life of drugs and violence. So we've committed $20 million over two years to support community-based prevention and intervention projects that prevent youth from entering gangs and assist them in leaving gangs.
I'll give you an example. In my area of Niagara, in St. Catharines, I announced with my colleague, Stockwell Day, a $1.7 million project that will work with at-risk youth who are in conflict with the law or involved with gangs in an effort to reduce gang-related activity.
Crime issues vary from province to province and from region to region. This is why I believe community-based programs work best. To further their success, my department seeks additional funding of $53 million so that our government can continue to provide support to the provinces and territories, which form an integral part of our country's justice system.
The next steps I would like to indicate to you are with respect to the Youth Criminal Justice Act. This is the 100th anniversary of the first youth criminal justice system in Canada. It's the fifth anniversary of the Youth Criminal Justice Act. I think this is an appropriate time to commence a review of how this country deals with young people. So in addition to the amendments we introduced in the House of Commons to the Youth Criminal Justice Act, we will be launching a broader review of the youth justice system, and we will provide the details of that review, including its scope, in the near future.
Mr. Chairman, I'd like to point out that there is another anniversary coming up. Next month will be the first anniversary of the creation of the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions as a separate entity from the Department of Justice. We've taken this step in the interests of accountability and to make absolutely clear that criminal prosecutions are independent from political influence. We continue the process of selecting a permanent director for this office and hope to make an announcement very soon in this regard. As Attorney General, I will be appointing that individual, and that choice will be referred for approval to a committee of Parliament.
As we move forward, I will continue to work hard in my role as Minister of Justice to ensure that the government's tackling crime agenda progresses through Parliament so that we can all enjoy safer streets and more secure communities.
In closing, Mr. Chairman, I'd like to thank you and your committee members for the important work you do.
The Department of Justice is instrumental in the government's work in responding to the needs of Canadians. Our many programs and initiatives require collaboration, of course, with our provincial and territorial partners as well as with municipalities and other government departments. For it to continue its work in making Canada's streets safer and communities safer, and to improve our justice system, the department will need to continue to receive funding.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, for affording me the opportunity to make some opening comments. If the committee has any questions, I would be glad to take them.
Mr. Minister, I thank you for appearing before us today.
First of all, you are certainly one of the most enterprising ministers that Parliament has seen in many years. If you were paid by bill, you would certainly be a rich man. I imagine you are itching to table yet another bill this week.
Having said that, I would like to ask you three questions. You must be aware of the fact that a vast survey dealing with various issues has been carried out over several months involving 10,000 Canadians. I do not know who paid for this survey. Was it your department, the Prime Minister's Office or the Privy Council? I did not notice if there were questions on the death penalty, but there were questions on rehabilitation, on tolerance and on criminal measures. I would first of all like to know who paid for the survey, which the newspaper La Presse in Quebec made a big deal about, particularly journalist Mr. Hugo de Grandpré?
Furthermore, I'm very happy that your department is asking for an additional vote of $53 million for support services. These are funds intended for the provinces and territories to support youth justice services. If I understand correctly, these are funds that would be added to the National Strategy for Crime Prevention. I would like to hear a little more from you on that and I would like to know how much money, of this $53 million, will be allocated to Quebec.
If I understand correctly, you are asking for another $100 million for the National Drug Strategy. I will have the opportunity to come back to that, but I would also like more information.
I would therefore like to know who paid for the survey of 10,000 Canadians at the beginning of the year. What are we to understand about the $53 million to support youth and how much will Quebec receive?
Thank you very much for those comments and for your comments concerning our crime-fighting agenda.
You indicated, to begin with, that you're getting good response and good feedback from your constituents, and I can tell you that everywhere I go in this country I'm getting positive feedback from individuals who are having a look at what we're doing, and for the most part they're applauding these actions.
You talked about getting it through the House of Commons and the Senate. I know you will do--and I think we all should do--everything possible to try to move these pieces of legislation, legislation that I believe Canadians want and that will be good for this country. I understand that these bills have to be studied and that there have to be speeches, but nobody wants to see things get delayed. I hope nobody wants to see them get delayed, so I appreciate all your efforts.
I see the member for St. Catharines, and I know he was chair of the legislative committee that looked into the Tackling Violent Crime Act. He, along with his colleagues from all sides, did an excellent job in getting that through. I appreciate his leadership on this as well, and I'm sure the people of St. Catharines are very appreciative of his efforts.
You asked me about the aboriginal justice strategy as well. I got into it a little bit, I believe, with Monsieur Ménard's question with respect to the aboriginal justice strategy, or perhaps it came from someone in the Liberal Party. One of the things I found attractive about it is that the feedback we have received indicates that individuals who get involved with this are less than half as likely to reoffend as those who do not participate in a program of this nature.
You can have many programs, but as my colleague, Stockwell Day, will tell you, you have to show results; you want to know you're making a difference. I appreciate that sometimes that's very difficult to measure, but from the information I have received with respect to the aboriginal justice system and from the feedback I've had, people are pleased with it, and it is working.
I underline the fact as well that we have a constitutional responsibility with respect to aboriginal people, so there is an added onus on the Government of Canada to take steps to assist aboriginal people who unfortunately, in some cases, get involved with the criminal justice system. As you quite correctly pointed out, there is money in these supplemental estimates for the program, which is of course why we're here, and enhanced funding over the two years was announced, as you pointed out, in Budget 2007. In my opinion, this is money well spent. This has my complete support, and I believe the members of this committee are in favour of it as well. It's a good-news item and it's something that works.
You touched on a couple of areas of legal aid, and you quite correctly pointed out that requests for legal aid money are in the supplementary estimates that are provided to you.
I think you're talking about the area of civil legal aid. You're right. When I was here in the 1980s and the 1990s, the Government of Canada did have a specific line item. I think it was under what we would now refer to as the Canada social transfer. There was a specific line item with respect to civil legal aid and it was cancelled by the Government of Canada in 1995. Again, you were here at that time. Why it was cancelled, I'm not in the best position to know. You're probably in a better position yourself to know why the Government of Canada cancelled it.
Inasmuch as that was taken out as an item that was listed in the transfers to the provinces, I was quite interested in making sure that more money was being transferred to the provinces. So when my colleague, Mr. Flaherty, tabled his budget, and when I saw there was $63 billion more money going forward for the provinces, I was among those who were very pleased, and I congratulated him. I congratulated him, quite frankly, in my role as Minister of Justice because I thought, great, this is wonderful news; there is more money in the hands of the provinces, and certainly for the support of criminal and civil legal aid, they're in a better position.
If the provincial AGs didn't get any of that money for those, that's very disappointing. But I can tell you it was one of those things that certainly I looked for when Mr. Flaherty came out with that budget. When I saw those increases of transfers to the provinces, I was happy again, and happy in my role as justice minister, because I knew there would be more money for legal aid, civil and criminal, which I both support--
Thank you, Madam Freeman.
With respect to the money that was announced, two-thirds of it will go into prevention and treatment, and I think that is as it should be. One of the things that people most often ask me, of course, is on the enforcement side, on the penalty side, and of course that's quite reasonable.
Part of the national anti-drug strategy involves two of my other colleagues, Stockwell Day and of course the Minister of Health, Tony Clement. So, in my opinion, it has to be a comprehensive program any time we deal with young people or people getting involved with drugs. Therefore, that's why I'm pleased that most of the money--and that was new resources--are going to prevention and treatment. I believe that is as it should be.
I don't have a breakdown for you as to what each individual province may be getting, but again, I take your representations as well as those of Monsieur Ménard that it obviously has to be done on a fair basis across this country. Why? Because we know the problem exists. It's not a problem that's confined to the major cities. It's confined to all Canadian cities, small and large. So again, you can be assured that it will be done on a reasonable basis.
Thank you very much. I would be pleased to do so.
I think everyone recognizes that you have to have a comprehensive approach whenever you deal with these problems. As I was saying to Madam Freeman with respect to the national anti-drug strategy, you have to take a holistic approach to this. It can't just be on the enforcement side. We've got to intervene, whether it's through education or working with troubled people. We've got to do something to help them either stay away from some of these problems or assist them when they start to get involved. Again, you hit it right on the head when you indicated that my colleague, Stockwell Day, and others are quite involved with some of these programs.
You should take some of the credit, Mr. Dykstra, for the announcement that was made in your riding of St. Catharines by the Citizens' Advisory Committee. It helps all the Niagara area. One of the things that impressed me is that this community-based program has been in business for almost 20 years. I think it goes back to about 1988. They've got a track record of helping people who get into trouble, or potentially get into trouble, with the law.
I was quite impressed when I joined you and our colleague for the announcement of $1.7 million over the next four years. Again, this kind of money can be accessed through community groups. I encourage others to have a look at this to take advantage of it, because it helps everybody.
Certainly I think that particular organization and their plans going forward are quite impressive. They indicated with that funding that they would be able to get directly involved with 80 young people who already have problems or potential problems with respect to the justice system. They would have the resources to work with them.
You would remember, Mr. Dykstra, that they indicated they would be able to reach out to hundreds of other individuals and get the message out to them that there is help and there are alternatives to getting involved, for instance, with gangs, drugs, or crimes of violence. It was a perfect fit, in my opinion, because you have an organization with a track record that is successful at what it is doing.
Should it have government support? I believe it should, of course. Again, I've made this point: we all pay the price when people fall between the cracks. To the extent we can work with groups, organizations, or, in the case of one of the programs, as Monsieur Ménard said, directly with the provinces and help to assist them in the programs they are using to reach out to young people and people coming into conflict with the law, this is money well spent. I believe it has to be a part of it.
I indicated to you a little while ago that most of the time people ask me about the enforcement side with respect to penalties, but I always indicate to them that there's more to it than that. Certainly I have been supportive, as you and your other colleagues have been, of our colleagues, both Stockwell Day and Tony Clement, in moving forward with these. You've been very supportive, as I am myself. I understand it has to be a holistic support.
I think you've summed up some of the challenges we have. I appreciate your support. I'll say it again: I appreciate your involvement. For you to get involved with that organization in the Niagara peninsula, you are improving the quality of life for the people of Niagara. You're helping to ensure those individuals lead successful lives, and in the end everybody will benefit.
I'm predicting that it will be successful if we get these things through Parliament, Mr. Bagnell.
Actually, the Department of Justice estimates, on which I'm here today, have now been hived off from the Director of Public Prosecutions. You will have a separate budget with respect to the DPP. We've been in the process for the last year, and this is the anniversary coming up, I think, in a couple of days with respect to the creation of that office, so I'm enthusiastic about it. I hope you'll get behind the agenda.
I note that in the legislative committee you indicated that a Liberal government would refer parts of the Tackling Violent Crime Act to the Supreme Court for a reference and that you'd take out other parts. I hope that's not the case, quite frankly. All of the Tackling Violent Crime Act, in my opinion, is very, very important. Quite frankly, some of it is overdue. Somebody said to me, you're trying to bring some of these laws into the 21st century. That bill that allows adult predators to molest 14- and 15-year-olds is out of the 19th century, never mind the 20th century. That thing should have been changed many, many years ago.
You can decide or not decide to support them. Of course, that's your privilege. I'm not sure what sections you would refer to the Supreme Court. I'm not sure what sections you'd take out. I was somewhat encouraged that at least at the report stage yesterday it looked to me like we were able to gather almost unanimous support.
I want it to move forward, yes, but to be a success, in answer to your question, we have to get these things passed. We have to get them as part of the laws of this country. All of them are needed and all of them help build safer communities and make our streets safer and stand up for victims of crime, which goes back to one of the other questions we had with respect to victims. We have to stand up for victims.
Thank you, Minister. I'm very happy to see you, because it has been some time since we have seen each other at a committee meeting. I would first of all personally like to congratulate you for having tabled Bill , which is finally ready.
On the other hand, when I look at the estimates, I always look to see if there is a balance between "repression" and rehabilitation.
I'm very honoured to be part of this government. I practised law for 34 years, particularly in the area of criminal law. Never, ever in the past has the federal government presented us with what you have done: an ombudsman for victims. We never had that in the past. We neglected victims.
On another point, your budget introduced a very particular idea: support for youth—or at least people who are taking drugs—who could be rehabilitated rather than being put in jail. These people could become "normal" again, if they compare themselves with what they were before. This once again is an issue of help for victims, for people who are really in a sorry situation.
I also noticed that your budget provides for additional funds for the Commission of Inquiry dealing with the investigation following the bomb attack on Air India flight 182. We must not forget that this dates back to 1985. It is the biggest air disaster that Canada has experienced, and there were 395 victims. I am proud that our government is investing in it.
However, I would particularly like to hear you on one specific point, because we are before the television cameras today. Some people have a tendency to say that we are repressive, whereas our government is the only one, up until now, to have created the position of ombudsman for victims and to have provided for rehabilitation when people have a drug problem. I would like you to explain this problem to us in more detail, because I feel that we are taking care of victims, and the proof is there that your budget provides funds for victims' rehabilitation. There never has been an ombudsman in the past. We are the first government to have created that position.
Thank you very much, Monsieur Petit.
You covered a wide range of areas. I was pleased to hear your comments with respect to the ongoing funding for the Air India inquiry. Yes, I believe it's important, and we have to support that. As you point out, this is the largest mass murder in Canadian history, and therefore it's important to get some of the answers that up to this point in time have not been forthcoming.
You talked a little bit about the drug courts, and I received an earlier question on that. Yes, these are good ideas. We have to be innovative. We have to support programs, plans, and, in this case, a modification to the court system that will help get these people off drugs. This is what we want. We don't want people to be wasting their lives and destroying themselves, and indeed destroying the lives of others. So, yes, I'm very supportive of that program in place.
You talked about the federal ombudsman for victims of crime. This is something that I feel strongly about, and I know you do. You have made representations to me on this, so I know you're sincere in standing up for innocent victims of crime, and I know you're quite pleased with our whole agenda, because we're consistent throughout. We do take the concerns of victims of crime very seriously, so it was certainly one of the highlights of the last year in my role as Minister of Justice to make that announcement that, yes, there would be an office and there would be an individual who would be responsible.
I don't want a situation where a person who is a victim of crime runs into the individual who made them a victim of crime, in a grocery store, for example. I don't want them running into that individual and then saying, “Why wasn't I told about the parole hearing? Why didn't I get informed?” I want them to have an office they can go to and raise legitimate concerns, legitimate issues, as they affect victims. And I want to have a little more flexibility within the victims' fund, because I understand it can be very difficult, very expensive, for some individuals who are victims of crimes to get to those parole hearings so they can have their voices heard. So I want those resources in the fund to be there to assist them.
It's a combination of things that we are doing, but they all add up to the same thing: we are listening to what victims are telling us. These are the innocent individuals who have unfortunately been targeted by criminals. We want them to know that we are listening to them and are providing assistance for them and giving them a place to go to, Mr. Chairman. They now will know who to turn to if they have legitimate concerns.
I'm very pleased to have been a part of that. Again, I have to thank you for your support, because you have been very consistent and very supportive of this program.
First of all, why are we introducing it now? Believe me, when I was here back in April before this committee, if you had told me that we still wouldn't have had passed the raising of the age of protection from 14 to 16, I wouldn't have believed you. I would have said, “What's the problem here?”
I appreciate that a lot of time was spent at committees on mandatory sentences for people who commit serious firearms offences. But as to why the Youth Criminal Justice Act comes now, well, guess what, I'm still trying to get those protections for those young people in Bill . It's been a much longer process than I would have liked or have even predicted. Again, if you'd asked me last April whether we would have gotten.... I would have said I'm sure we'll get these things through.
With respect to our timing for the introduction of these, as I say to my colleagues, we're just getting started; get these things passed and we'll get to more criminal justice legislation in this country.
I think those constituents of yours would be very pleased to hear that, because we have a lot to do. We've done a lot in the criminal justice area, but I certainly want to do more.
In terms of—
Actually, that's a very good point, because here's what happened last spring, Mr. Chairman. We got these things into the Senate, three of these bills. It was made very clear that we were on our own with those. I used to ask the leader of the opposition: “Could you give a phone call down there? Could we get some of these things passed down there?”
As the member quite correctly points out, it's not just the House of Commons. I don't want to leave the impression, Mr. Chairman, that we're out of the woods, that if we get the Tackling Violent Crime Act through the House of Commons, therefore Canadians will get the kind of legislation.... By all means, that is not the case; I appreciate it. We have to get it through the Senate.
Again, I faced that challenge last spring, and you know the results. We didn't get very much help on it. Nonetheless, I always remain optimistic, Mr. Chairman. I'm still optimistic that tackling violent crime is exactly what this country needs.
An hon. member: Minister—
Hon. Rob Nicholson: I'm hoping that we vote expeditiously.
An hon. member: Minister, thank you.
Hon. Rob Nicholson: Let's move it through the committee and the Senate expeditiously.
Thank you, Chair, and thank you, Minister, for appearing here today on the estimates.
There's been a lot of discussion amongst committee members and by you on our government's legislative agenda regarding the criminal justice system.
I guess, Minister, you're in a unique position, because you are able to travel the country quite a bit talking about justice issues. Could you provide the committee with some of the feedback you're hearing from Canadians?
In my province of New Brunswick, in my riding, youth justice—youth crime—is a big issue. The provisions that have been introduced in Bill —I've certainly had an opportunity to hear some feedback from my constituents—are well received. They also feel that it's striking the right balance.
Could you comment a bit on what you're hearing from Canadians, but also on the need for balance? You spoke a bit about preventative measures and helping people get out of a life of crime or of going down the wrong road. I think Bill strikes that balance. I also think Bill , on tackling the problem we have with drugs in this country, strikes that balance.
So could you comment a bit on what you're hearing, but also on the need for you as a minister to strike the appropriate balance in legislation?
Thank you very much. I appreciate that. I appreciate all the work you do as parliamentary secretary to the justice minister. I had the privilege of holding that role for approximately four years, and it was one of the best parts of my being a parliamentarian, quite frankly, to be involved with justice legislation. I can tell you, you are doing an outstanding job in that role, and I am very grateful.
Perhaps I could bootleg something in. I want to congratulate you publicly for the birth of your first child, a daughter. I think that's wonderful.
Some hon. members: Hear, hear!
Hon. Rob Nicholson: When you asked what am I hearing across this country, that was one of the things I did hear as well. It's not related to this.
It's interesting in this role that you do hear different things from across this country, and you try to meet with as many people as you can. It's not perfect. You can't get to everybody. For instance, when I go to the major cities, I like to visit the Department of Justice, because I want to thank them for all the work they are doing in their provinces or areas of responsibility. So whenever I'm in one city or another, I ask them if we can possibly do it--I want to do it--because it's a priority for me to get the message to them that all the hard work they are doing across this country on behalf of the people of this country is appreciated. It's appreciated by those of us who are in government.
At the same time, when you're meeting with individuals, people, for instance, in law enforcement, or mayors--that's another group that has asked to see me when I've been across this country--you do see differences across this country. If you even look at the problem of car theft, for instance, in some communities the problem revolves around, most times, young people sometimes suffering from either addictions or fetal alcohol syndrome, from that sort of thing. Individuals are stealing the car and then abandoning the car and stealing another car, whereas in some communities I hear about very sophisticated car-theft rings, chop shops, that kind of thing. Quite frankly, when I hear that, it inspires me to think that we're going to have to bring in more changes in that area. You would know of your colleague, Andrew Scheer, and his work in creating a separate offence for auto theft. He is responding to the concerns he is hearing in his province.
Again, I do hear different things in different parts of the country.
As I say, when I was in Halifax a couple of months ago, I heard loud and clear that they wanted changes to the Youth Criminal Justice Act, and specifically those two outstanding justice ministers whom my colleague, Mr. Savage, just mentioned. Both of them were very clear. They wanted to see changes to the pre-trial detention provisions of the Youth Criminal Justice Act. I told him the truth. I'm only too happy to oblige, and we'll get that and try to move that forward. We'll do what we can to try to build a consensus and to move this through Parliament.
So yes, I hear that when I'm there. On the problems with drugs, I don't think there's anywhere I've been in Canada this past year where people haven't raised with me some concerns with respect to drugs.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Comartin, basically, when the act or the jurisprudence refers to a political discretion as opposed to.... Then it is no longer under the control of the courts; it is in the hands of the minister. The statute still plays a very big role, and the surrender order must be executed by the minister within 45 days of the judicial decision to commit the fugitive. There is no authority, under the treaty or the act, by which the minister can suspend the execution of that surrender order. If the surrender order is not executed, the fugitive is free to apply for a discharge and the extradition process fails.
There are two limited exceptions to that. The first is where the fugitive is facing outstanding criminal charges in Canada or where there is an appeal with respect to the committal order.
There is some language being used in the media, if I may, with respect to a temporary surrender. It is true that there is a capacity to have a temporary surrender, but that is only when the fugitive is serving a sentence in Canada for a criminal offence.
So while we've not had the benefit of the advice that that committee has received, certainly under what we see as the limited discretion available to the minister under the act, we would want to look at that advice.
The question of confidence is something that is reserved to the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister indicated with respect to the Tackling Violent Crime Act that this was a confidence measure. It's integral to what the government is trying to do. It's integral to what we promised Canadians in the last election. So we made it very clear, and I think it was reasonable to do that.
If you heard my comments on that at the report stage, I indicated as well, so that there wouldn't be any misunderstanding on anyone's part, that if the amendments as they were proposed went through, we would consider that a confidence measure. We were prepared, and we're still prepared....
We still haven't gotten this thing through at third reading, and I'll repeat what the Prime Minister has indicated, that, yes, this is a confidence measure, and if it is defeated at the third reading stage, we are prepared to go to the people of Canada.
In terms of consultation, it depends, I suppose, on the bill. Those of us, for instance, who run for Parliament, consult with our constituents. We get feedback from our constituents; we get suggestions from our constituents as to what should go in a bill. I know the Department of Justice looks at these issues very carefully. I get feedback, for instance, from provincial attorneys general. Mr. Savage talked about the two justice ministers in Nova Scotia. Certainly they were very vocal in terms of getting input into that Youth Criminal Justice Act.
In that particular bill...I'll give you another example; there's the Nunn report. There were a number of recommendations, and certainly one of them was with respect to pre-trial detention. That too is part of that input, in my opinion.
Those of us who are members of Parliament hear widely across this country, but we do listen to our constituents as well, and we want that feedback from them to see if we're on the right track and that we're moving forward.
Again, we try to get it right. I can tell you that I'm very pleased and satisfied in terms of the bills we have introduced that we have gotten it right, and these are widely supported by Canadians.
I will be brief. Since we are going beyond the estimates and talking about the government's philosophy as shown in a number of bills, I would like to ask you three quick questions.
Do you think most people in this country agree that when a Canadian or a Quebecker commits a crime outside the country, even a serious crime, that they may be subject to the death penalty and that the Canadian government, which claims to be passing bills that uphold the rule of law and a democratic ideal will refuse to repatriate the individuals to serve their sentence here and thereby avoid the death penalty? How does that square with your ideal of the rule of law and the values that a government should be promoting? It is quite difficult to understand the new approach your government is taking in this regard, and it is actually most disturbing. Of course, we are not trying to minimize the seriousness of the offences that were committed, but the death penalty is barbaric. Your responsibility is in no way removed because it is practised abroad rather than in Canada.
Furthermore, there was something that bothered me a little in the remarks you've been making here today. You seem to think that you have the support of a majority of Canadians. I think we should remind you, minister, that less than 40% of Canadians supported you, and that at least 60% of Quebeckers do not support either your election platform nor the vision behind it. Of course, that does not make you a less legitimate minister, but when I and my colleagues from the Bloc Quebecois speak in the House of Commons, we do have an alternative vision. I never receive the mandate from my constituents to defend the vision of the criminal justice system that underlies Bill , which is based on increased use of preventive detention and the deterrent principle. Quite the opposite is true.
You will recall that the National Assembly took a stand against this particular vision. We will see how things turn out, but I think we must bring you back to reality: your government is a minority government, and 60% of Canadians and Quebeckers do not subscribe to your vision. A number of people are pleased that you are not a majority government, and I think, with all due respect, that you should include me in that group.
Thank you very much, Monsieur Ménard.
You say that we're refusing to repatriate. We'll have to make a decision in those cases when this comes up, as to whether it involves the death penalty, or indeed when we get applications from other Canadians who are abroad and are detained or in jail. Decisions, of course, have to be made as to whether those individuals will be transferred back to serve in Canada. There is actually legislation in place that permits that. But obviously the decisions have to be made in each case.
I am keenly aware of the fact that we have a minority government. I believe that if we had a majority, some of these pieces of legislation would have been passed. I think they would have been passed a long time ago.
Again, I appreciate your comments, but we also have the right, as we did with the Tackling Violent Crime Act, to make it very clear that we are prepared to treat that as a confidence measure. And that too is a function of a minority parliament, and it has a long tradition within our parliamentary system.
I think it was quite appropriate for us to indicate, and to indicate clearly, that the Tackling Violent Crime Act is a confidence measure. That doesn't take away your right to either vote against it or to defeat it, but I think it was incumbent upon us to make sure everybody was in favour of that.
Now, I can tell you that--