Madam Speaker, it is an honour to rise in this House today to speak in favour of Bill .
This legislation would further strengthen our government's track record of keeping our streets and communities safe for everyone and to ensure that those who do commit crimes are held responsible for their actions.
Since coming into office in 2006, our government has made the safety and security of Canadians one of its top priorities. That is why we have pushed forward with a series of measures to get tough on crime, especially violent gun crime. For example, members will recall that in the last session of this Parliament any killing linked to organized crime would automatically lead to a charge for first-degree murder.
To further combat the reach of organized crime, this government has also introduced legislation that imposes mandatory jail time for those involved in serious drug offences. In addition, we have passed laws that address drive-by shootings and other intentional shootings that brazenly disregard both our laws and the right of all Canadians to their safety.
We have passed legislation that gives added protection to the police and peace officers who put their lives on the line every day that they go to work. I would like to pay tribute to the members of the Canadian Police Association who have been visiting us on Parliament Hill the last few days.
Offenders have always done their best to go undetected and the rapid pace of technological change has made this easier than ever. Hidden in the dark alleys of the information highway, offenders are attempting, and often succeeding, at stealing the very identity of their fellow Canadians.
I am proud to remind all members of the House that this government has passed tough new laws that help the police and the courts fight the scourge of identity theft.
However, the wheels of justice often turn more slowly than we would like. As a result, there may be considerable time spent by an individual in pre-sentence custody. I am very proud that the government has passed laws that limit the amount of credit offenders will receive while in pre-sentence custody. In this way, the guilty will serve a sentence that truly reflects the severity of their crimes.
These are but a few examples of the government's efforts and accomplishments to keep our communities safer, to ensure that offenders receive appropriate sentences and to ensure that the rights of victims are heard and respected.
However, as the Speech from the Throne notes, our work is far from over, and I am pleased that this government has already taking further action.
Members will recall that the recently reintroduced legislation to strengthen the national sex offender registry. This measure would provide additional protection for our children from abuse and exploitation.
With that background, I am pleased that our Conservative government has reintroduced amendments that would strengthen the International Transfer of Offenders Act.
As members will recall, and as the last speaker correctly identified, Canada has been a party to international treaties relating to the transfer of offenders since 1978. Since that time, 1,531 Canadian offenders have been transferred back to Canada, while Canada has returned 127 foreign national offenders in our prisons back to their countries of citizenship. The initial legislation, which was modernized in 2004, now, in the interest of public safety, has to be amended once again.
Currently, the is required by law to take several factors into account when considering a request for a transfer. These include: first, if the offenders returned to Canada would constitute a threat to the security of Canada; second, consideration of whether the offender left or remained outside Canada with the intention of abandoning Canada as their place of permanent residence; third, the offender's social or family ties to Canada; and, fourth, whether the foreign entity or prison system presents a serious threat to the offender's security or human rights. No doubt, these are important considerations which ought to be taken into account. However, there are deficiencies.
Nowhere in the current law is there any specific mention of protecting the safety and security of law-abiding Canadians. Nowhere in the current law is there any specific mention of victims, family members or children. I would submit to the House that these are serious omissions that the bill before us would certainly correct.
Moreover, Bill , when passed by the House, will allow the minister to consider a number of other factors when considering offender requests for a transfer. Specifically, the will be able to consider situations where an offender who requests a transfer to Canada has refused to participate in career, vocational or educational programs while incarcerated in another country. The minister will also be able to take into account the circumstances in which the offender, if transferred to Canada, will be monitored and supervised after his or her release. This is especially important, given that one of the purposes of the act under consideration will continue to be contributing to the administration of justice and the rehabilitation of offenders and their reintegration into the community.
Bill would also allow the minister to take into account several other very important considerations when assessing an offender's request for a transfer. These are as follows: If the offender has accepted responsibility for the offence for which he or she has been convicted, including acknowledging the harm done to victims and also to the community; and, if the offender is likely to continue to engage in criminal activity if the transfer is successful. These considerations should surely help to guide decisions about whether to grant a request for a transfer from an offender serving a sentence outside of Canada.
Currently, there is no clear legislative authority for the minister to take those matters into account. Bill would surely remedy these deficiencies, while providing the minister more flexibility in the decision-making process itself.
I will now highlight how the proposed amendments would help keep Canadians safer, because I believe all members of the House are interested in keeping Canadians safe. The amendments before the House would add public safety as one of the purposes of this legislation. These are two simple words but these simple words will clearly reinforce the government's commitment to ensuring that Canadians, their families and their children are safe and secure in their communities. At the same time, the amended legislation would ensure that offenders remain accountable for their actions, both in Canada and abroad, and continue to be treated fairly and equitably when they are making a request to be transferred.
The legislation as it stands would empower the to assess an offender's potential security risk when considering a request to transfer back to Canada. However, as I indicated in my intervention with the previous speaker, the notion of a threat to the security of Canada has been linked solely to terrorism threats to Canadian people as a whole. We believe that is too narrow and must be expanded to include public safety risks to Canadians domestically and locally in their own communities. The bill would add to this by including as a factor whether, in the minister's opinion, the offender's return to Canada will endanger public safety. The will consider, among other things, the safety of victims, the safety of any child and the safety of members of the offender's family.
To further guide the minister's decision-making on these matters, the amendments propose other factors that would add greater flexibility in considering transfer applications. An example as to how this might work in practice is that if the offender is likely to commit criminal activity in Canada, the minister may take this factor into consideration when entertaining the transfer request.
Conversely, this legislation also has factors that would actually assist offenders in making applications successfully. For example, if an offender is in poor health, has co-operated with law enforcement officials or has acknowledged the harm he or she has done to victims in the community, the minister may take these factors into account when considering the transfer request.
I would submit to all members of the House that these are sensible changes and, moreover, much needed. When the minister assesses the potential risk of transferring an offender back to Canada, it is not enough to examine the likely threat to national security. Public safety must also be a principal consideration in that decision, and public safety must include more than threats of terrorism.
This legislation is timely considering that it is National Victims of Crime Awareness Week. It also ensures that helping victims of crime remains at the heart of the government's public safety and justice agendas.
On this side of the House, we have always believed that every victim matters. We are committed to ensuring that victims' voices are heard and their concerns are taken seriously. That is among our highest priorities and why we have taken action on so many victims' rights issues.
The legislation before us is proposing to help further strengthen this track record by ensuring that the safety of victims can be taken into account when assessing a request for transfer. The changes our government is proposing stipulate that the safety of family members and children will be taken into account. This is an important change and a clear deficiency in the act as it currently reads.
The minister would be able to consider the issue of the transfer of an offender with assault convictions against family members and if it would endanger their safety. The minister would also be able to consider an offender incarcerated for a sexual offence against a child in a foreign state and if he or she is likely to commit a sexual offence against a child if transferred to Canada. Surely, these changes are sensible and all members ought to support them.
Bill would ensure that the may consider public safety as part of the decision-making process for the transfer of offenders. As such, this bill reflects this government's commitment to strengthening the rights of victims, increasing the responsibility of offenders and making our communities safer.
While the amendments before the House today are simple and straightforward, they would have a significant impact on the lives of Canadians who are concerned about the transfer of offenders back to Canada. Accordingly, I urge all members to join with me in ensuring the speedy passage of Bill .
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill . As we know, this is not the first time the House has seen the bill. As it has with much of its legislation on crime, the government has accused the opposition of stalling when its measures are not adopted immediately. However in the end, it is the Conservatives, the Conservative Party, the Conservative , the Conservative and, in this case, the who terminate their own bills and then reintroduce them with an apparent urgency that they have contradicted. Can you say prorogation, Madam Speaker?
If the House is to properly examine Bill , we ought to be talking about the purposes of, and any existing problems with, the international transfer program as it exists. In other words, in broken English, if it ain't broke, why fix it? If the House is to amend the act, we must do so with an understanding of the objectives of the transfer program. I certainly want to make it clear from the outset that we on this side are recommending that we send the bill to committee and that some things can be done to the bill at committee to improve it.
As the current International Transfer of Offenders Act reads:
The purpose of this Act is to contribute to the administration of justice and the rehabilitation of offenders and their reintegration into the community by enabling offenders to serve their sentences in the country of which they are citizens or nationals.
The House is well aware that the purpose of this program is to facilitate the administration of justice and the rehabilitation of offenders.
Correctional Service Canada clearly puts forward the reasons that brought Canada to adopt the international transfer of offenders, as follows:
If offenders are not transferred, they may ultimately be deported to Canada at the end of their sentence, without correctional supervision/jurisdiction and without the benefit of programing.
Whatever amendments we make to the bill, this has to be the overall objective with respect to public safety and reintegration.
It seems to be a flaw in the whole Conservative justice agenda to pretend that no one ever gets out of prison. Well, people do serve their sentences and they get out of prison. They get out of detention facilities. They get out of federal prisons. Many people get out of prison. In fact the overwhelming majority, up to 90% of people, are back on the streets, and what have we done with those people in terms of rehabilitation?
It may be a generalization to say, but I am guessing people serving 10-year sentences in a correctional facility in Texas probably do not get the amount of rehabilitative programing that they do at Dorchester Penitentiary in the county of Westmorland in the province of New Brunswick. I do not have the evidence on that. I am standing on a limb with a wild guess on that, but that is why we have committees and that is why we have the test of evidence at committees, which helps us mould a bill.
Not only does the possibility exist that we may have no idea of a citizen's criminal record in a foreign country, but the act as it stands serves a clear rehabilitative purpose. In other words, people who serve their entire sentence in a foreign jurisdiction are deported at the end of that sentence back to Canada, often and in many cases by administrative fact, without a permanent transfer of the record of what that person has done. So if a person is a dangerous offender and for some reason serves his or her sentence in an American or other jail, he or she could be brought back to Canada without public safety authorities knowing that there is a dangerous offender candidate in the community. That cannot be in the interests of public safety.
Every day, some 2,000 Canadian citizens are incarcerated somewhere in the world. According to the Correctional Service of Canada, authorities here may never hear about it even if the offender has a criminal record, because there is no record of the sentence in Canada. There can be no doubt that Canadians serving prison sentences abroad face serious difficulties. According to the Correctional Service of Canada:
Canadians incarcerated in foreign countries often find themselves facing serious problems coping with local conditions. The most common problems involve culture shock, isolation, language barriers, poor diets, inadequate medical care, disease and inability to contact friends and family.
The Canadian consular personnel in foreign countries provide all the assistance to the incarcerated that they can, but it cannot be a substitute for serving time in Canadian institutions, especially when these people are going to be back on the streets of Canada. The act, as it exists, is well warranted in its intentions and the services it provides in ensuring appropriate justice is afforded to Canadian offenders.
To summarize, the purpose of these agreements is humanitarian in enabling offenders to serve their sentences in their country of citizenship, to alleviate undue hardships borne by offenders and their families and, I would suggest, to marry the objectives that my friend from indicated. That is, the dual concerns of humanitarianism and public safety.
The existing act takes into consideration the fact of their eventual reintegration into society. Under the existing formula, once transferred, the offender's sentence is administered in accordance with the laws of Canada, in this case. Quite simply, transfers enable offenders the opportunity of becoming productive members of society, particularly through managing justice and rehabilitation of the offender.
Bill seems to go against many of the principles that shaped the international transfer of offenders program. The Conservatives have attacked the fact that individuals, Canadian citizens, are being transferred from foreign countries to Canadian prisons to serve out their sentences. The government has, however, approved many of those transfers. While it purports to support strong and effective justice legislation, it enables potentially dangerous consequences through this bill. It is important to underline that the minister and the government, for four years, have used the existing legislation to allow people to serve out their sentences in Canada, when the act already contains a ministerial discretion.
The International Transfer of Offenders Act does not permit a program out of some sense of feeling sorry for the offenders. We ought not to think that everyone on this side is more concerned about the offenders than public safety. In fact the theme of the speeches I am hearing on this side is all about public safety married with the concern for humanitarian and Charter of Rights protections.
If an individual commits a crime in a foreign country, is tried, convicted and ultimately imprisoned, that citizen cannot be guaranteed our sense of Canadian justice, which includes restorative justice and rehabilitation. These are central to the concept of our Criminal Code.
I have often said and I will say again that a Canadian Conservative created the Criminal Code, Sir John Thompson. It is one of the best accomplishments of a Conservative politician in Canadian history, so let us not say I am unfair and overly partisan. I am complimenting a Conservative justice minister and prime minister.
In section 718, there is laid out our principles of sentencing. If we listen to the Conservative news network, we might think that the only consideration for sentencing ought to be punishment, deterrence and locking people away, but that is not our system. That is not what we all believe in. We believe in many principles of sentencing as set out, which in section 718, briefly, are to denounce the conduct, to deter the offender and people generally from doing the same thing, to separate offenders from society, to assist in rehabilitation, to provide reparations and restitution for those wronged and to promote a sense of responsibility in offenders.
That says it all. That is our system of justice. The question is: Does this new act strike a balance, or does it go more to the side of making sure people are far away from society and not a threat to public safety until they are not? Then, coming from some crazed asylum known as the American correction facility of the day, they are let out on the streets in Canada, because I have heard nothing from the other side that they will invoke the Galloway measure, that they will say that an offender, having served his or her time in an American prison, will be barred entry to Canada from, say, the United States.
I do not think the United States would accept that. It would want to deport criminals who have served their time. Make no mistake, these offenders are going to be on our streets at the end of their sentences, whether they serve them here or there. The real question is: Should they serve those sentences, in the best cases possible, and in the majority of cases they are transferred, in a Canadian facility or an American one or a foreign one?
I am dwelling on American facilities because the statistics are fairly clear that an overwhelming number of Canadian citizens serving sentences abroad are in American prisons.
When the individual is released, which will happen, he or she will be deported back to Canada without the effect of our rehabilitative programs.
The degree to which offenders may require help is extensive. Currently one in ten individuals imprisoned is suffering from mental illness. We only have to read the comments of Senator Michael Kirby in the newspapers today to know how important it is on a non-partisan level and something which should unite all Canadian elected and non-elected officials, and how important and grave mental illness challenges are in Canada. This number, one in ten individuals in prison suffering from mental illness, only goes up among female offenders, and the plausibility that citizens imprisoned overseas will not receive appropriate help is real.
I was very involved in wanting to have a resolution to the tragic consequences of Ashley Smith's death. She was from Moncton. She was not treated appropriately by our correction system. I am hoping that the will take the recommendations of Howard Sapers and others, including Bernard Richard in the province of New Brunswick, and better our system with respect to incarcerated females, incarcerated youth and those incarcerated who have mental health issues.
As it stands, Canada is party to treaties that allow offenders to serve their sentences in their country of citizenship. The currently decides whether a transfer into Canada of a Canadian citizen or out of Canada of a foreign offender is allowed. The minister already has some discretion.
However, this bill proposes to modify the International Transfer of Offenders Act by changing the words “the minister shall” to “the minister may”. On top of this, it also adds new factors that the minister may take into account.
These are certainly questions that will be launched at the minister, officials of the public safety department and other witnesses at the committee, which is why this bill must go to committee to be studied.
We want to know what these other reasons might be. A law which has wide discretion that does not define the parameters of that discretion is a dangerous law. I would think that would be a very salient factor to consider for us as lawmakers who may be passing, if we pass this part with the open-ended discretion, a law that knows no bounds. It is against our parliamentary tradition.
These amendments are greatly concerning. Considering that this bill will see the transformation of a rules-bound structure into a flexible and absolutely discretionary ministerial duty, this is hardly an improvement on the existing program.
The most recent statistics from Corrections Canada, as has been revealed in previous debates, reveal that there were only 53 transfers to Canada in 2006-07. As far as is known, there are no considerable problems with the application of the program which was amended in 2004.
It does beg the question, and I think in the presentation of the government there might have been an exposition of the problems, what were the problems with those 53 transfers to Canada between 2006-07? Were those people threats to public safety?
From the government's bringing these amendments to this protocol, it is inferred by us that the terrorist protection provisions do work. There were exclusions of those who were incarcerated and who were let out from foreign institutions from Canada based on those reasons, and that is working.
Somehow the public safety issue had not been taken into account. There are 53 cases. Of the 53 cases there must have been something in the government's mind in passing this. There must have been instances where people who were allowed to serve their sentence in Canada should not have been allowed to. They presumably would have served the sentence elsewhere and come back to Canada anyway, so are they not still a public safety risk? It is a question that must be asked at committee.
As it stands, applications for an offender's return to Canada can be refused for a number of reasons. This is the existing regime.
In the past, if the offender left Canada with the intention of abandoning the country, for example, somebody like Conrad Black who actually gave up his citizenship, that was clear evidence he was abandoning the country as his place of residence and in this case citizenship. One reason would be if the offender's return to Canada would constitute a threat to the security of Canada, or if the offender has no social or family ties in Canada or is linked to terrorist organizations.
The is also required to consider whether the conditions of incarceration pose a serious threat to the offender's safety or human rights. As such, the transfer acts as a means to enhance basic human rights.
Bill , however, would amend the existing legislation so that the minister is not necessarily bound by those fairly sensible criteria. The bill would add a list of factors that empower the minister to use his or her complete discretion as to whether to consider the current and binding standards in the protocol.
Bill would now see new factors, and they have been canvassed in previous speeches, about whether the offender has sufficiently accepted responsibility for the crime.
Well, the offender is serving the time. I guess what is wanted is a guilty plea from the incarcerated person after the person has been found guilty. I wonder what the importance of that is other than to get satisfaction that a person who has already served his or her time will have to enunciate that he or she did the crime. Maybe there is a question about the foreign systems of law, but we take it in our system that if the person has served the time for the crime, the person probably did the crime. At least in law we find that is the case.
The other factor that is new is the minister is left to determine whether in his or her opinion the offender has co-operated with foreign authorities.
In some cases, the foreign authorities, which is the whole purpose of this legislation in the first place, might not be easy to co-operate with. There might be foreign countries which we do not co-operate with fairly well. Increasingly, the government seems to have a problem with a number of countries and it would seem odd that should be a factor in letting someone back.
Finally, we can see that under the proposed changes there is that basket of “any other factor”. Clearly, at committee that has to be tightened up.
If we look at those reasons, they do not all point to enhanced public safety, as one of the previous speakers, in fact the member for , suggested. We are looking for sensibility in this bill. I hope that it will be explained at committee exactly how this would enhance public safety.
What is greatly concerning is that in some jurisdictions there are cases of innocent Canadians accused and convicted who would now have to renounce their innocent or not guilty plea and accept responsibility for an act they did not commit to avoid incarceration in a foreign prison.
I would for once say something very positive about the American justice system. It is similar to ours. It may be even more protective of an accused's rights in that if a person is found guilty in the United States, barring all the John Grisham novels, the person is probably guilty. However, in many jurisdictions there are innocent people who have been convicted.
The person would have to renounce that plea to get back into the country to serve the sentence.
Does this House feel that Canadian citizens should have the right and the opportunity to be transferred if their conviction and imprisonment should result in harsh imprisonment?
Think of the family members who have a son or a daughter who committed a crime in a country where its conditions of imprisonment are very different from ours.
In closing, it would seem to me that this bill is eminently ripe to be sent to committee. Questions that should be asked are: What exactly is going on here? Why is it that the system is not working? Is it that bad? How does it enhance public safety to send back to Canada criminals who have served their time in a foreign jail, with no treatment and are now on our streets?
We support sending this bill to committee. I am looking forward to any questions there may be.
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill , which is a carbon copy of Bill C-599 introduced on November 26, 2009. This bill amends the International Transfer of Offenders Act to provide that one of the purposes of that act is to enhance public safety and to modify the list of factors that the minister may consider in deciding whether to consent to the transfer of a Canadian offender held abroad.
Let me preface my remarks by saying that we can learn a lot by listening to our colleagues in the House. I listened carefully to the Liberal member who spoke previously. He said that this bill would be studied in committee. What does that mean for the Quebeckers and Canadians who are watching? It means that the Liberal Party will vote in favour of the bill, but will want to improve or amend it in committee.
That is not what the Bloc Québécois is going to do. We have to stop being afraid of the Conservatives' right-wing philosophy. The Liberals are afraid. They wonder what the public will think. A bad bill is a bad bill.
The problem with the Conservatives is that the only place where they see an opportunity to make political gains is on law and order issues. They are trying to make sweeping law and order changes, even though those changes make no sense. Quebeckers have always held onto certain values, and we expect Canadian nationals who commit a crime abroad to be judged according to our values. If not, we expect the country where they are charged to honour our policies and our values. Otherwise, we will return our nationals home.
There are international agreements about offender transfers. This bill is designed to give discretionary power to a Conservative minister. The Bloc Québécois will always be against giving right wingers the power to decide whether or not to return Quebeckers and Canadians home, no matter what they may have done. Depending on the country, charges are laid. I will give some examples. In some cases charges are laid, but six or seven years later, they still have not been processed.
Bill C-5 is designed to give the minister more discretionary power when he decides to transfer a Canadian who is serving a sentence abroad.
Instead of having to take into consideration the offender’s health or, worse, the fact that the foreign prison system presents a serious threat to the offender’s security or human rights, the minister would now be allowed to consider any factors he likes, without being obliged to consider them all. We can see the right-wing philosophy. The government will repatriate Canadians when it suits it to do so, but leave them to their fate when it does not.
But human rights are, by their very nature, non-negotiable. Parliament cannot allow a minister to overlook potential human rights abuses. Every human being, even the most despicable criminal, has fundamental rights.
The Conservative ideologues want to use this bill to give themselves the option of evaluating the fundamental rights of Quebeckers and Canadians on a case-by-case basis, although the courts have consistently ruled against this and have called the Conservatives on it many times. Mr. Smith and Mr. Arar are just two devastating examples.
Knowing the Conservatives' dogmatism, particularly on this issue, it would be irresponsible of us to give them more room to manoeuvre when it comes to negotiating the basic rights of Quebeckers and Canadians, especially those being held in a country that believes that incarceration and mistreatment, such as torture, are the only solutions to crime.
The Conservative government has not provided any factual reasons for amending the legislation. What is worse, the minister has acknowledged that much of what is in the bill is already covered in the act, but says that Bill C-5 spells it out. He also added that he has cases in mind that he does not want to discuss, and these cases would justify the amendments.
Again, we see this right-wing philosophy whereby they are right and everyone else around them is wrong. Our fear is that the government has a hidden agenda.
Why would we trust people who see and present themselves as white knights, but are anything but? Just look at the case of Rahim Jaffer driving dangerously while impaired and in possession of cocaine—he once campaigned for drug free schools—or the violation of the Access to Information Act where criminal offences have probably been committed, or the matter involving the former Conservative minister who just left cabinet, or Mr. Blackburn, who fancies himself above the law, or the Afghan detainee abuse situation.
When we see their attitude toward the court challenges program or the Khadr case, they are anything but sincere. It is highly likely that the Conservatives see this as a way of imposing heavy sentences abroad rather than having to deal with parole and rehabilitation here. That is the crux of the problem.
The Conservatives would like to impose a right-wing philosophy on Canadians and Quebeckers. These are not the values that were passed down by our ancestors. The Conservatives were elected and they represent a certain segment of the population, but, again, the entire population is represented in the House and they have to accept that.
I say that in all politeness to my opposition colleagues. The NDP knows the score, but the Liberals have to stop being afraid of the Conservatives. We, in Quebec, showed them a long time ago what we were made of. The Conservatives have not bothered us in Quebec in ages. People have to stand up to them, not let themselves be run over. Only then will they realize that this American style, right-wing philosophy is not what our ancestors wanted for us. It is not the type of society I want to pass on to my children and my grandchildren.
I will always fight against extremists who, for purely political reasons, decide to manipulate things and change the law. Often, the government takes a piecemeal approach. When something terrible is sensationalized by the media, it decides to change the law. When it comes to law and order there needs to be balance. The beauty of law is in its balance.
We have seen how the Conservatives have attempted to introduce all manner of bills to shift the balance established by our ancestors. It is terrible to see the damage this can do in right-wing societies. The Americans chose the conservative route. We all recall the Republican era: incarceration was the rule, people were sent to jail. A few months ago, the American president had to release 20,000 inmates. He said that because of their lesser sentences, they should not be incarcerated and had to release them because of overcrowding in prisons. That is difficult to grasp. The Conservatives support incarceration but they would like all citizens to carry a gun. It is rather difficult to understand. They want to abolish the gun registry. They would like everyone to be able to defend themselves. They would like to play cowboys and Indians. That is how the Conservatives react.
Once again, that is not the society that the ancestors of Quebeckers and Canadians left them. That is not the type of society that we are used to. It is the Conservatives who want to change that. As I was saying, the Americans are changing course. They tried it and the crime rate did not go down. The prison population has risen and they do not have the money to look after, let alone rehabilitate these people.
The balance I was speaking of earlier is not achieved by simply incarcerating people. We must also be able to rehabilitate them. We have to allow citizens who have committed lesser crimes, who can be reformed, to be rehabilitated. We have to invest the necessary resources and not just use these people or punish them by incarcerating them.
We know that prisons are where people go to learn how to become criminals. First the Conservatives tried everything they could to send children under 18 to adult prisons. That was a terrible initiative. We must rehabilitate criminals, especially young ones. The younger they are, the easier it is to instill new values. This is what we should be doing, which is why a balance must be struck between repression and rehabilitation. That is what the Bloc Québécois has always advocated in all areas.
The Bloc Québécois has been the toughest party in the fight against organized crime. It was the Bloc Québécois that introduced a bill to reverse the burden of proof in connection with the proceeds of crime. Now criminal groups have to prove where their money came from. Previously, the burden of proof was on the government, and it was much more difficult. This measure allowed Quebec to mount Opération printemps 2001, which targeted organized crime, starting with the Hells Angels.
That is one way of going about it. We need to be tough at the right time, and not simply for the sake of being tough or because we want to jump on any kind of media bandwagon. Indeed, we often realize a few weeks or months later that the situation was not as serious as we thought and that it was blown out of proportion.
Acting on impulse is always a bad idea, even in our lives. We must take a balanced approach, even in our own lives, and never go on instinct alone. Acting on instinct or impulse can be costly to consumers and that applies to everything. That is why it is important to always be wary of the Conservative philosophy. As we know, instead of having to take into account established factors, the minister will now be able to consider whatever factors he chooses.
We talked about health and how offenders are treated. That is one philosophy. Torture is not allowed in Canada. We cannot allow a government, even a Conservative government, and a minority one at that, to outsource torture.
Serious accusations are being made because the government refuses to give the House all of the documents related to the Afghan prisoners. There are suspicions that torture was outsourced to Afghan authorities. That is the worst of them. I have a hard time understanding why the Conservatives refuse to release these documents. We need to be able to tell the public that we defend our society's values throughout the world.
That is not what Bill does. The minister is being allowed to choose why he will or will not bring an offender back to Canada. If it is left up to the minister, he could decide to leave an offender or Canadian citizen for a longer period in a country where torture is used, in order to get something from him. That is not right.
We cannot play with human rights and with the values our society believes in. These values are there in good times and in bad, and that is always what we strive for.
As I said at the beginning of my speech, this is a bad bill. Giving a Conservative minister the powers and the discretion allowed for in this bill is a bad decision.
The Bloc Québécois will oppose this bill and will not send it to committee as the Liberals are doing. Obviously, if the Liberals vote with the Conservatives, this bill will go to committee, but we will do everything we can to ensure that it does not pass. The minister was not able to convince us of the merits of this bill, other than the fact that it gives him the discretionary power to choose why or why not to bring an offender back to Canada, and gives him more latitude and flexibility. He must have some cases in mind, but he does not want to share them. This kind of Conservative, right-wing, extremist behaviour is very disappointing.
I am very surprised to see that my colleague, the member for , now espouses right-wing values. I knew him in his previous life in municipal politics. I always thought of him as a balanced and conciliatory person, but he seems to have taken on some bad habits since joining the Conservatives. He was a Liberal in Quebec, but now he is defending American-style right-wing conservative philosophy tooth and nail. President Obama had to let 20,000 people out of prison because there was not enough money to look after them, let alone rehabilitate them. The member for Pontiac and his government want to invest more money in prisons and put more people in jail. Those are not the values our ancestors passed on to us, nor are they the values I want to pass on to my children and grandchildren.
Once again, I chose the right party: the Bloc Québécois. Bloc members will always stand up for human rights and the values we cherish. Those values should protect our citizens no matter where they are in the world. We will certainly not give a Conservative minister the power to make decisions for purely political reasons. They seem to think it is a good idea right now. They are impulsive. They see what is going on in the media, so they introduce a bill to fix the problem. They hope to win a few more votes. But the Conservatives will not win more votes in Quebec, and they know it.
We will never support Bill . If the Liberals support it and it goes to committee, Bloc members of the committee will do their utmost to make members of every political party understand that this is a bad bill. Giving a discretionary power to a right-wing Conservative minister is not a good idea. Sometimes they have good ideas that we can support, but this is a bad one.