Good morning, everyone, and welcome.
This is meeting 62 of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security on Thursday, March 24, 2011.
In our first hour today our committee will consider the supplementary estimates under Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.
The Honourable Vic Toews, Minister of Public Safety, is again appearing before us to answer questions on these estimates. He is accompanied by each of the top officials in his cabinet portfolio, including, from the Department of Public Safety, Deputy Minister William Baker; from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Rod Knecht, senior deputy commissioner; from the Canada Border Services Agency, Ms. Cathy Munroe, vice-president of the program branch; from Correctional Service of Canada, Commissioner Don Head. Welcome back. From the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, Laura Danagher, deputy director of administration; and from the National Parole Board, Mr. Harvey Cenaiko, the chairperson.
The minister and his officials are also prepared to answer questions on the estimates following a brief opening statement, and then we'll proceed to questions from the members of our committee.
Minister Toews, welcome again to this parliamentary committee, and we look forward to your comments.
Thank you, Mr. Chair and members of the committee. Once again I welcome the opportunity to be with you to discuss the estimates of the public safety portfolio.
As you indicated, Mr. Chair, I am joined here by the Deputy Minister of Public Safety, Mr. William Baker, as well as by senior officials of the five agencies in the public safety portfolio: the Canada Border Services Agency, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, the Correctional Service of Canada, the Parole Board of Canada, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
The committee has before it the main estimates for fiscal year 2011-12, which seek an increase in funds of $797.4 million over the fiscal year 2010-11 for the portfolio. The committee also has before it supplementary estimates (C), which seek approval for funds of $48.5 million for the current fiscal year. These estimates do not reflect initiatives announced in Budget 2011.
As demonstrated in this week's tabling of the budget, the next phase of Canada's economic action plan recognizes the importance of keeping our communities safe by investing in crime prevention and the justice system, with such measures including investing $20 million over two years in the youth gang prevention fund to promote the provision of community-based educational, cultural, sporting, and vocational opportunities for youth; promoting safer aboriginal communities by investing an additional $30 million over two years in the first nations policing program to supplement existing policing services; funding of $8.4 million per year to Canada's no-safe-haven policy for persons involved in war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide; providing $26 million over two years to support the federal victims’ ombudsman to promote access to justice and participation by victims in the justice system; funding $20.9 million to continue to waive firearms licence renewal fees for all classes of firearms from May 2011 until May 2012; and contributing $1.6 million annually to support security enhancements for communities victimized by hate-motivated crime.
These are only a few highlights of this week's budget; however, they stand as a testament to our government's continued commitment to protecting the safety and security of all Canadians.
The committee has before it the main estimates for fiscal year 2011-12, which provide for the day-to-day operations of the portfolio throughout the fiscal year in accordance with our government's ongoing commitment to continue building safer communities for all Canadians at a time of government restraint.
In addition, funds would be prudently invested to provide the Correctional Service of Canada and the National Parole Board of Canada with the resources to implement the Truth in Sentencing Act and the Tackling Violent Crime Act.
It would allow the RCMP to meet incremental requests for policing services by provinces, territories, municipalities, and first nations communities while also implementing or renewing a number of initiatives to further crack down on the activities of organized crime groups as well as others who would threaten the safety and security of Canadians.
It would strengthen the ability of the Canada Border Services Agency to keep our borders secure while expediting the legitimate flow of people and goods across them, and it would allow the agency to support the integrity of Canada's immigration and refugee program by implementing the Balanced Refugee Reform Act.
It would deliver on the commitment I believe all of us share to protecting Canada's digital infrastructure from current and emerging cyber threats by providing needed resources for the implementation of Canada's cyber security strategy, which our government announced in September.
Our efforts to tackle crime will cost more money. We understand there is a cost to keeping dangerous criminals behind bars, and we're willing to pay it. This is a small price to pay to ensure dangerous criminals don't create new victims or terrorize previous ones. We want to ensure that Correctional Service Canada has the resources it needs to keep dangerous criminals behind bars and ensure that our methods and infrastructure keep up with, indeed get ahead of, new forms of criminality.
The protection of Canadians must come first. As victims have repeatedly told us, releasing criminals onto our streets early has a much higher cost than keeping criminals behind bars. In fact, a recent report released by the Department of Justice estimated the total cost of crime to Canadians in 2008 to be $99.6 billion. I'm very pleased that Conservative members of this committee have recently written the Parliamentary Budget Officer requesting a study analyzing the socio-economic cost of crime for victims, governments, and our communities. I agree with my colleagues on the committee that this is an area that has not received adequate priority and analysis.
Our government is aware of the reality and we are prepared to take the steps that will be needed to ensure that Correctional Services of Canada has the tools they need. The main estimates for fiscal year 2011-12 seek an increase to Correctional Services of Canada's budget of $521.6 million, of which $458 million relates to the implementation of the Truth In Sentencing Act, and a further $19.6 million is requested for the implementation of the Tackling Violent Crime Act.
In addition, the main estimates for 2011-12 seek an increase to the Parole Board of Canada's budget of $2.8 million, of which $1.6 million represents the third of six annual increases related to the government's Truth In Sentencing Act. Canadians have told us they want to feel safe on their own streets and in their own communities. They have told us they want police to have the resources they need to do the job. They have told us they want stiffer consequences and stiffer punishments for serious crimes, especially violent gun crimes. They have told us that they want offenders held more fully to account for their actions, and they have told us that they want the interest of victims put ahead of those of offenders. That is what our government is doing.
We are working with Canadians to restore faith in our justice system. All of us have been busy in this session. We have worked together on Bill , which is the Protecting Borders Act, more commonly referred to as “Shiprider”. This is important legislation that would permit designated Canadian and American law enforcement personnel to jointly work on maritime law enforcement vessels in boundary waters and pursue criminals who try to exploit law enforcement gaps at our shared waterways.
We have worked hard on Bill , which is important and very much needed by Canadian travellers as it is going to allow Canadian airline companies to continue accessing southern destinations in the most timely and cost-effective way possible. And it is going to ensure that we continue to strike the appropriate balance between complying with international laws while also protecting the rights of Canadians.
We've worked together to pass reforms to the pardon system so that the Parole Board of Canada has the discretion it needs to determine whether or not granting a pardon might bring the administration of justice into disrepute.
Our children have the right to be safe from sex offenders. That's why I'm very proud that all of us worked to pass legislation to strengthen the national sex offender registry and the national DNA data bank so that all sex offenders are registered with the police.
Tackling crime on all fronts remains a key priority for our government, which is why we also recently introduced legislation to combat the despicable crime of human smuggling. This is indeed a major concern for our government. We need the help of all members of Parliament to pass our firm and reasonable measures that would prevent human smugglers from abusing our fair and welcoming immigration system.
Most recently, we passed reasonable measures to ensure that convicted con artists, fraudsters, and drug traffickers won't be released automatically onto our streets after serving just one-sixth of their prison sentence.
Finally, our Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act passed through the Senate, and we have announced new RCMP technology that will help reduce wait times for individuals, including hockey coaches and teachers, to receive police checks to be able to work with the most vulnerable in our society.
Keeping our communities safe has been a priority for this government, and I know it's a priority for members of this committee. We have taken action on a number of fronts to deliver on our commitment. We will continue to do so in the future, and I look forward to working with this committee over the coming months on a number of fronts to keep Canadians safe.
I am now prepared to answer questions, Mr. Chair.
Thank you to the Minister.
Minister, I want to run through a history. It has to do with cost, and I think it's pretty central to the estimates in front of us. It must have been about two years ago that I made a request for the Parliamentary Budget Officer to review the cost of all the bills that were before Parliament that had implications with respect to incarceration. The Parliamentary Budget Officer agreed to undertake that study. In that period of time all I heard from his office was that there was absolutely no cooperation from either your office or from Correctional Service Canada. In fact, it was so bad he had to dedicate one-third of his staff and all kinds of resources to create statistical models to recreate the data that was refused to him. The reason given was that it was cabinet confidence.
Now we move forward as the Parliamentary Budget Officer was blocked from doing his job and Parliament was unable to know what the costing of bills was as we went forward.
Mr. Chair, my concern is that it took the to say this behaviour was completely inappropriate, that you cannot hide information from either Parliament or Canadians. And still the documentation was not handed over. A contempt motion was passed by a committee of Parliament, and still today, nearly two years after seeking.... With 18 bills before us, the Parliamentary Budget Officer tells us that more than 55% of the data is missing, and we don't have the information.
The question is simple. How can you expect Parliament to vote on bills for which it has no idea of the cost? How can you expect Canadians to weigh decisions about relative priorities when a blindfold is essentially put on them, not allowing them to know what the truth is? And why, Minister, do you refuse to hand over the documents, refuse to cooperate with the office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer, and refuse to come clean on these costs?
The problem I have, again, so that we're clear, Minister, is not with the costs given. It's that no costs are given.
Let's take the accelerated parole review. We said, very simply, that we wanted to know how much it will cost. In front of this committee, during debate, we were told that we can't know. It's a matter of cabinet confidence, and we can't be told. Amazingly, the day after it was passed, we got a number. And by the way, we were told they're not really sure if that number is right; they're still looking into it.
That's for a passed piece of legislation.
When you say cooperating, with all due respect, through the chair, very simple information on head counts, projected head counts, should be obvious and readily available. My question is very simple. Just on one bill, we have more than 150 pages from the Parliamentary Budget Officer. I have never seen anything to refute anything in that document in a substantive or meaty way. I'm wondering why the minister refuses to hand over the more than 55% of documents the PBO says he needs to do his job. Can he not respect that Parliament can't make a determination on bills when, first, we're refused the numbers--we're not given them at all--and second, the Parliamentary Budget Officer says that he absolutely can't trust the information because he's missing more than 55% of it, even two years after we've engaged this process?
Let me try to answer those to the extent I can, and I'll leave the rest to Mr. Head. There are a number of questions, about four or five, as I understand, that have been put.
The first question is on the difficulty of attempting to determine the cost of any piece of crime legislation. We went over that quite expansively in a prior committee hearing last week. It wasn't this committee; it was the procedure committee. If my learned friend actually wants to know the answers to the questions he's put, those same questions were put to his colleagues last week.
Let me give one clear example. My staff at Corrections, the commissioner, estimated that as a result of the Truth in Sentencing Act, there would be, by this time this year, an additional 1,300 or so new prisoners in the system. In fact, the number of prisoners is 500. Correctional Services diligently tried to determine exactly what the impact of legislation would be. There are all kinds of costing models. The question is not that they hadn't provided the information; the question is that it's often difficult, if not impossible, to make these kinds of determinations.
Similarly, trying to determine the cost of legislation.... For example, for my colleague, the justice minister, when it came to abolishing the faint hope clause--the elimination of the right to apply for parole after serving 15 years of a life sentence for murder--it was very difficult to determine what the cost would be 15 or 25 years down the road.
Thank you very much, sir.
My next question is for the Minister of Public Safety.
Mr. Minister, you have decided to close some border crossings. There will be cuts at the Franklin Centre, Jamieson's Line, Big Beaver, Morses Line and East Pinnacle crossings. We have been told there would be a savings of $500,000 at Franklin Center, at a time when the USA is investing millions of dollars to update Churubusco, on their side of the border.
You said in your statement that you want to strengthen the ability of the CBSA to keep our borders secure. However, when you close border crossings or reduce their hours of operation, you certainly do not make our borders more secure.
What is your answer? Will you suspend your decision, Mr. Minister?
Thank you to the minister and the officials who are appearing before us.
Mr. Chair, as you know, much of this committee's time has been drawn, from time to time, at least, on the cost and the difference between what the Parliamentary Budget Officer has forecast and what in fact we have heard from people like Mr. Head, who has a very good grasp about what the cost is to run the prisons.
Mr. Chair, I think we heard the Parliamentary Budget Officer and his staff indicate a cost of something in excess of $300,000 per inmate, and that was based on some assumptions that he had built into his model. I'm just wondering if Mr. Head could tell the committee, Mr. Chair, what in fact the actual costs are for inmates in the Correctional Service of Canada facilities. I think there is a significant difference. I read an article in one of the papers this week by an independent academic who suggested that the Parliamentary Budget Officer's assumptions were way off, and as a result, based on his assumptions, his final tallies don't accurately depict the cost. I'm wondering if Mr. Head could give us those actuals as opposed to what we have here.
I'll give the committee the breakdown of costs by security levels, by offenders in institutions, and by offenders supervised in the community.
On an annual basis it costs us $150,808 for an offender in maximum security, $98,219 for an offender in medium security, and $95,038 for an offender in minimum security. In the women's facility it's $211,093. To administer our exchange of service agreements with the provinces, it costs us an average of $89,800. So the average cost for somebody incarcerated is $113,974.
For an offender in a community correctional centre, the cost is $66,993. For an offender supervised under parole in the community, the cost to us is $27,455. The total average cost for an offender in the community is $29,537. The total average cost for both institutional and community offenders combined is $93,916.
We'll reconvene our committee as I bring everyone back to order here.
In our second hour today, we will continue our hearings on Bill .
First of all, as individuals appearing before us, we have Mr. Randall Fletcher, a sexual deviance specialist, and William Marshall, director of Rockwood Psychological Services.
From the Vancouver Police Department, we have Deputy Chief Constable Warren Lemcke.
I know another Warren Lemcke and was thinking that he was going to appear here today, but I see that we have a different individual here.
We certainly welcome you from the Vancouver Police Department.
I also understand that all of you have opening statements. After we hear them, we'll go into the first round of questioning. Our intentions are to suspend approximately 10 to 15 minutes before the end of our time, at a quarter to, as we have some committee business that we must take care of.
Mr. Lemcke, I think maybe you've travelled the furthest to be here, so would you begin, please?
It's a pleasure to be here. This is my first trip to Ottawa. It is a beautiful city.
Good morning. It's an honour to appear here today to give comments on a bill that has the potential to impact both public safety and the confidence of the public generally--but especially victims--in regard to the justice system.
In the past few years, we have seen much focus and public attention on the issue of pardons in Canada. This, of course, has precipitated this bill.
There are many elements of this bill that I would suggest the policing community would support, as they would assist us in protecting the public.
First, changing the name of this from “pardon” to “record suspension” is important, as it recognizes the victims in this process. Victims can be impacted by crime long after any pardon or record suspension is given. In many cases, they would never pardon the criminal.
It is a very positive step that the National Parole Board will now have much more authority when it comes to granting, denying, and revoking the record of suspension.
With regard to extension of the ineligibility period for application and concerns about how that can affect people, we need to remember that although the bill recommends that summary conviction offences have a five-year waiting period and indictable offences 10 years, through the use of absolute and conditional discharges there are two other periods: one year for absolute discharges; and three years for conditional discharges, where these records are automatically removed either immediately or upon successful completion of the probation period. Many of these sentences are given out especially with first-time offenders so they don't have to wait for the longer period imposed by this proposed bill.
I note that out of the 400,000 pardons given since 1970, 96% are still in force. That's an important figure, but what about those who've been given pardons who have just not been caught?
I do find it interesting that it appears that a very large number of pardons have been given out in the last few years. I also note that, based on figures given, in the last two years hundreds of sex offenders have been pardoned. This is very troubling.
Some sex offenders, especially predatory criminals and those pedophiles who prey on children, are arguably never cured. If any are included in that group, the consequences could be tragic. I note again these individuals who were pardoned in just the last few years. It should be noted that, according to Statistics Canada, sex offences have one of the highest rates of underreporting in Canada.
There will likely be concern around the issue of no eligibility for those who are convicted of certain sex offences against children or who have three convictions for indictable offences. Anyone who would commit these sexual offences against children is a predator. As I've said previously, it is a well-established fact that many of these predators can never be cured, so in light of that they should never have a record suspension.
It does make sense, though, to allow the noted exceptions, which relate to certain sex offences against minors by offenders close in age, as I think the public would understand this rationale.
The issue of ineligibility where a person has been convicted of more than three indictable offences is one that I respectfully suggest requires some discussion. A young person could be convicted of three break-and-enter offences when they're in their late teens or early twenties. If they clean up, and they're in their thirties and forties, should they still be ineligible? Overall, I believe the police community and the public would support this bill and its intention to allow those who have reformed to have a clean slate to get on with life and be a contributing citizen. Those who continue to reoffend or commit sex offences against children should not get this privilege.
Having the National Parole Board given the authority to make informed decisions in all cases can only be seen as positive. This bill should turn around the public perception that pardons are there just for the asking.
Just to give you a bit of background, I know I have a bit of an unusual title as a sexual deviance specialist. It's caused me no end of embarrassment sometimes.
I work for the Attorney General's department of the Province of Prince Edward Island. In that position I provide assessment and treatment to anyone who has been convicted of a sexual offence in the province or anyone who is presenting with deviant sexual urges, fantasies, or behaviours regardless of whether or not they have a criminal conviction. I've been doing that for the past 16 years on a full-time basis.
Prior to that I worked for Mental Health Services, doing the same thing on a 50% basis.
I have been qualified as an expert witness in this area by the Supreme Court of P.E.I. And in a previous position, where I worked with Mental Health Services, I also provided treatment to victims of sexual offences.
In 1994 I was awarded the Lieutenant Governor's Award for crime prevention in recognition of my work in establishing a very comprehensive assessment and treatment program for persons who have committed a sexual offence.
My motivation for this work is that I'm very concerned with crime prevention, particularly preventing crimes against children. And it's in that regard that I'm speaking today.
The Canadian justice system recognizes that people who commit criminal offences can be rehabilitated and contribute positively to society. Treatment and rehabilitation programs for people who commit all categories of criminal offences have been proven to reduce reoffending, while punishment on its own has been found overall to either have no effect or, in the case of more severe punishment, the negative effect of increasing reoffence rates.
To justify the denial of record suspension for a category criminal offence, there has to be a compelling reason: for example, if there is scientific evidence of the high reoffence rate for a category of a criminal behaviour; if the effects of that behaviour on victims have been established as always being greater than for other types of offences; if it were established that rehabilitation of people who commit that type of offence was not effective; and finally, if it were established that there are no significant differences between persons who commit that type of offence. Given scientific evidence of those things, it could be argued that record suspension be denied to everyone who commits a sexual offence against a child.
In passing legislation that has an impact on any criminal population, it is also important that there be an awareness of the possibility of unintended consequences. Legislation aimed at making communities safer could have the unintended effect of actually increasing reoffence rates by interfering with the person's rehabilitation into society.
In considering legislation that would deny record suspension to anyone who has been convicted of a sexual offence against a child, the following four points should be taken into consideration. First of all, people who have committed a sexual offence against a child are not a uniform group. They differ significantly in terms of motivation, dangerousness, degree of dysfunction, and the risk to reoffend.
Second, the sexual reoffence rate for people who commit sexual offences against children is not high; most do not reoffend. Compared to many other categories of criminal behaviour, the reoffence rate is relatively low.
Third, treatment and rehabilitation of people who have committed a sexual offence against a child have been proven to be effective. I can tell you, for example, that in a study in 2006 with people who had completed treatment in the province of P.E.I., the reoffence rate over a five- to ten-year period was between 3% and 4%. I believe Dr. Marshall can give you similar statistics for his program.
Finally, the effects of sexual victimization of children can be very severe and lifelong and should be taken seriously. However, there is a continuum of harm, and while no level of harm to a child is acceptable, not all offences produce severe or lasting trauma. Research has shown that the most damage to children is caused by exposure to domestic violence, while children who have been physically, verbally, or emotionally abused experience similar effects both in type and severity to those who have been sexually abused.
Just to put this in perspective, it's important to understand that the verbal or emotional abuse of children, which can produce very severe effects, is not considered a criminal offence.
In summary, people who commit a sexual offence on a child are not all the same. Most do not reoffend. Treatment aimed at reducing the risk to reoffend has proven effective. The effects of sexual abuse on children can be serious and life long, but there are other types of abuse and criminal behaviour with similar or more traumatic effects. A one-size-fits-all approach is not appropriate. Our system already contains provisions for denying pardons to those sexual offenders who are dangerous and who continue to pose a high risk for sexual offending.
I'd also like to briefly address the risk of unintended consequences. Labelling theory, which was developed by sociologist Howard Becker, holds that deviance is not inherent to an act. Instead, it focuses on the tendency of majorities to attach negative labels to people who are seen as deviant from what is seen as normal or acceptable. The theory is concerned with the self-identity and behaviour of individuals and how that might be influenced or determined by the terms used to describe them. This can become a self-fulfilling prophecy, in which a person decides that this is what they are; they cannot change, so they may as well accept it.
The passing of legislation that would universally deny suspension to anyone convicted of a sexual offence against a child would deliver the following message: you have been signalled out as among the most dangerous and damaging members of our society; there is nothing you can ever do that would ever convince us that you can be rehabilitated or that you are worthy of pardon.
It is important to consider the effect this could have on the motivation to attend treatment programs and to change behaviour.
Finally, an important component to the rehabilitation of anyone who has committed a criminal offence and has been released into the community after a period of incarceration is the attainment of gainful employment. It is well established that a criminal record can be a deterrent to obtaining a job. For someone who has a record of sexual offending, this is particularly true. Denial of a suspension can further prolong that difficulty.
Thank you for inviting me. It's a pleasure to be here.
I've been doing treatment and research with sexual offenders for the past 42 years. I was a professor at Queen's for 28 years and they gave me the opportunity to do this kind of work. I've consulted for somewhere around 25 countries around the world, helping them design treatment programs for sexual offenders in their prison systems, and I have set up programs in I think six different countries around the world for sexual offenders.
I have 380 publications, including 19 books, most of which deal with sexual offenders and their treatment. I have contracts with Corrections Canada, among others, and we've been providing treatment in corrections facilities in Ontario off and on for the last 30-something years. I started the very first treatment program in 1973 in Kingston Pen. It was the first in the country.
We've been following our offenders very carefully. We have, for example, a cohort of 535 that we've now followed for an average of 10.5 years. Of those 535 treated, 5.2% have reoffended over that period of time. Reoffences among sex offenders, whether treated or not, mostly occur within the first three to four years. So I think we're on safe ground to say this program is very effective.
Corrections Canada has been at the forefront in the world of providing rehabilitative services to all manner of offenders, and particularly sexual offenders. By the way, I concur with Mr. Fletcher that the average reoffence rate of untreated child molesters is 18% over a 10-year period. This is not a remarkably high level of reoffending, compared to other types of crime.
One of the problems in getting sex offenders into treatment is that they need to see some value to themselves. The opportunity for parole is a very important motivator in getting these men in prisons into treatment programs, as is the opportunity to function within a programs-oriented prison rather than a non-programs prison, as is, finally, the opportunity to find some redemption in securing a pardon.
Of course, no sensible community would give pardons to all sex offenders. What they have to do, in my view, is demonstrate, first off, that their danger and risk to innocent children has been reduced, and the best way to do that is through effective treatment in the prisons. Corrections Canada has the good sense to also require most sex offenders, particularly child molesters, to do follow-up treatment in the community once they're released as a condition of parole.
I think the incentive of a possibility of a pardon is crucial, but of course there are some people I would never recommend a pardon for, and I could string off a bunch of names familiar to all of you, I'm sure. We have to have discriminatory procedures. You have to discriminate amongst the level of risk and the efforts the person has made to rehabilitate themselves, not just through treatment programs, but also by their good behaviour in the community.
We can talk about unidentified crimes, but that's like knitting clouds, as one of my colleagues used to say; it's an unknown. We can't know how many unreported offences occur for any particular individual. All we can go by is the official record, their behaviour--information that the parole board can take into account in deciding on whether or not to give them a pardon.
So I would strongly oppose the idea of just wiping out pardons altogether. I think the incentive of the pardon is very important, but we need to make sensible decisions about that, and be, I think, quite conservative about it.
It's the first day we're doing this, Chair. I guess I'm getting used to your new system after all these years.
So through you, Mr. Chair, you had somebody, as an example, before this committee, who was a victim of the residential school program, who made some mistakes as an 18-year-old. These were not sexual assaults. The person has been crime-free for many years and now is a leader in his community who is making a difference by helping people in aboriginal communities lift up out of the situation. It is somebody who dealt with terrible abuse in his lifetime. This bill would stop him from getting a pardon. It would mean that he wouldn't be able to get a good job. It would mean that he's not able to travel to other places.
We also heard testimony that for somebody--an 18-year-old mother, as an example--who made a bad decision and wrote four or five bad cheques, that would be four or five offences. She similarly would be hit by this legislation and would not be given another chance.
What bothers me is that Conservative members in committee will express sympathy for witnesses who express this viewpoint, and the minister will even express sympathy. He said here in committee that change needs to be made. And then he will stand in the House and say that I stand for sex offenders because I asked those questions. It's outrageously dishonest.
I guess I would ask if you would agree with me that those portions of the bill that in particular deal with the folks I've just described need to change before we pass this legislation.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
As we know, there are two major parts to the bill before us. There's a proposal that would bar Canadians from getting a pardon if they commit more than three indictable offences. I think we've heard from every witness...including the minister, who said that's an arbitrary figure that needs to be re-examined.
The other aspect of this bill is that it would also bar any Canadian convicted of a long list of sex offences against children from ever being eligible for a pardon. I think we have to say at the outset that talking about sex offences against children involves a level of protectiveness and, dare I say, even repugnance and disgust, which I think are common to everybody. Also, it brings up in us a very strong desire to protect our children. I think that's understandable.
I think as parliamentarians we need to try to make wise policy that will aid in that objective, so I want to address these comments to the two people who have been spending their lives, I guess, addressing this.
Does the prospect of obtaining a pardon, in your experience, aid in the rehabilitation of a person convicted of a sex offence against a child to the point where that person will never offend again? Is that part of the rehabilitation process? Does it play a role or not?
Thank you, Mr. Chair, and through you to the witnesses, welcome, and thank you very much for your testimony. It is indeed very helpful.
On the complaint that what we say and do at committee gets reported in the House and is hurtful, I have seen the very person who complained about that verbally eviscerate other people. I guess in this political realm, in the cut and thrust, we somewhat share in some of those exchanges. Some of us have had to apologize to the House, publicly and privately, and some of us have had to go through some legal pains.
I would agree with him that it demeans us all, and not just one of us. I have to share in that. I think the low opinion of politicians by the public is due to the actions we take because we care very much about our stand, and what we stand for has an effect. But we're here today to talk about Bill C-23B.
Chief Constable Lemcke, I shared a profession with you before this one. I listened to the other two witnesses, and while I don't disagree with them, I'm always reminded that people in the law and in health care practise their trades. I don't ever recall hiring a carpenter who practised carpentry. I always wanted to have an expert who knew what he was doing. I'm not being insulting here. I'm just saying that when you deal with human beings, there are no exact things that work for everybody.
This is a roundabout way of getting to you, Chief Constable. In my experience as a police officer, we deal with the bad guy--
Thank you. I'll speak about victimization with regard to the bill.
I know this bill focuses on pardons or record suspensions for offenders, but when I hear the number of 535 people treated and that only 5% repeat, and 18% of those are untreated, the part that worries me—and I don't believe anybody is intentionally doing this—is that there is very little talk about the victims. That part concerns me.
Does a pardon help the victim of this crime? I don't think it does. I read some of the previous minutes when Sheldon Kennedy spoke here, and it doesn't.... I'm sure that victim lives with this....
People deal with crimes differently. Some will live with this horror forever. How does that pardon help them?
It's very nice that we talk about how it helps the offender, but how does it help the victim? When it comes to crimes against children, we should do everything, from beginning to end, to prevent these crimes from happening. We should be saying to people: “Canadians will not accept it. We will not tolerate this. We will treat this very harshly. If you do this, from day one the courts are going to treat you harshly. You are never going to get rid of your record. All of these bad things are going to happen to you if you do this, because we want to protect our children.” I think that is what we should be focusing on with the legislation.
I agree that people can rehabilitate. Maybe there are some pedophiles who can rehabilitate, but I also think it's more management of the issue they're dealing with. The part that scares me tremendously is that their record can be suspended. I know they will be flagged on CPIC, but there may be ways they can get into a position where they work with children again, and if one child is hurt, that's one too many.