The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill , be read the second time and referred to a committee, and of the amendment.
Madam Speaker, I rise here today with a bit of a heavy heart, for the vote that was just held suggests that the work ahead of me as a new member of this 41st Parliament is perhaps less important than that of other members in past parliaments.
Bill , deals with many sections and many pieces of legislation. I was told this morning that 295 witnesses appeared at 88 committee meetings in previous parliaments. Those individual bills failed to pass during previous parliaments, at least not in the form in which they were introduced by the governments in office at the time.
The government is introducing an omnibus bill that includes all these provisions. Bill is 102 pages long and includes 208 provisions that amend nine existing laws. This is not a small bill. The explanatory notes alone are 39 pages long. Not everyone in the House has experience in criminal law as it pertains to terrorism or is well versed in the laws relating to young offenders and immigration. That is a lot of things.
The leap of faith that the government is asking us to take is to find that what was done before is sufficient. In the future, when we are not happy, the axe will fall and the government will pass the bill because it committed to introduce the bill and pass it within the first 100 days of its mandate. When we disagree with the Conservatives on any part of the content or form of what they present to us, they tell us that we are in favour of criminals, child rapists and terrorists. I have a problem with this way of categorizing the serious work that all members of the House do every day.
I have a background in law. I worked in criminal law for five years when I began my practice and I was able to see the extraordinary work that the crown attorneys, judges and judiciary do; their work is not always easy. There are also defence lawyers who are obligated, under the Constitution, to represent people who are presumed innocent until proven guilty. There are some rather disturbing isolated cases that seem to have slipped through the cracks in the system. We are all aware that such is the case. I have also had a call-in radio show. Anyone who has listened to this type of show knows how things can sometimes get out of hand when people get started, particularly when such isolated cases are mentioned.
Our judicial system examines thousands and thousands of criminal cases each year. I find it a little rich that the Conservatives are introducing this 102-page bill that contains 208 provisions to amend nine existing laws on the basis of a few cases they have chosen here and there that deviate a bit from the norm.
I participated in a debate with Senator Boisvenu. I have the utmost respect and admiration for the work that he did for years after the crime that led to the loss of his two daughters. However, we must really avoid changing laws simply to respond to a need here or there.
The sad thing is that we on this side of the House are inclined to be in favour of some parts of the bill without even having to do much further study. We are in favour of the provisions having to do with sexual offences against children and parole. The entire system needs to be reformed, and that is often where we run into problems. But this bill lumps everything together.
As a member of the Barreau du Québec I can tell you that we, as lawyers, receive hours of mandatory professional training because the top priority is to protect the public. Every move a lawyer makes is scrutinized. When a lawyer goes the slightest bit off track, he or she is shown the door and is asked to report to the agency that monitors the legal profession.
The Canadian Bar Association has some valid and serious objections to this bill, not because it wants to protect criminals, but because it wants to protect what we should all be trying to protect together, and that is the penal system and the courts. We have to ensure that there is more than just the appearance of justice and that justice is actually served.
My basic concern with this bill, having practised law, is that within the Barreau du Québec and the Canadian Bar Association, two entities for which I have the utmost respect, we are going to see judges become quite apprehensive about hearing minimum sentence cases, because the bill eliminates the wonderful concept that every law student learns on their first day: every case is unique. Under the Conservatives, the concept that every case is unique no longer exists. From now on, if a person commits X crime, they receive X sentence, leaving no room to understand why the crime was committed or to see what would best serve society. Will we create hardened criminals?
Maybe the solution for the Conservatives is to keep everyone locked up for the rest of their lives regardless of the crime. That would be ridiculous. I do not want to put words in their mouths, but sometimes that is the impression the Conservatives give, because under some of the laws affected by the omnibus bill, we will no longer be able to apply this fundamental principle in law. What does that mean? It means there will be legal challenges.
I spoke to a number of my colleagues across the country as I knew that opportunities to hear from witnesses would be curtailed. I consulted several experts in the field who told me that some lawyers believe that constitutional challenges will be launched. Is it contrary to the charter in terms of unusual punishment? Is it this? Is it that? I doubt very much that we will achieve the intended results. Once again, I find it unfortunate that they are playing politics—I was going to say petty politics, but that would be unparliamentary—rather than really trying to fulfill the mandate we have been given, that is to legislate.
When I arrived here for the 41st Parliament, I believed that our job was to ensure that each bill passed is for the good of all Canadians, that each bill is useful, that each bill becomes a good law, and that each bill achieves the intended results.
I have the impression that sometimes it is a question of making headlines. Unfortunately, that does not meet the needs of victims or of the system, and it does not result in the changes the legal community is seeking.
Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today to speak to Bill . This bill takes nine previously introduced pieces of legislation and combines them in one comprehensive crime bill.
The proposed changes in the safe streets and communities act are part of our government's ongoing action to make Canada a safer place for law-abiding Canadian families. I have listened, with a great deal of interest, to comments from several hon. members during the debate on the legislation. I certainly appreciate the opportunity to speak of the many benefits that the changes proposed by our government will bring.
It has been five years since our government first took office. In that time, we have worked to bring forward legislation that would hold criminals accountable, put the safety of Canadian families first and deliver the kind of justice that victims of crime expect. It has now been over five years and through many consultations and conversations with people across our country, including with constituents in my riding of Etobicoke—Lakeshore, it could not be clearer that Canadians are concerned about the safety of their communities. They have long been calling for our government to focus on ensuring that their communities, playgrounds, streets and homes remain safe.
They have asked us to provide our law enforcement agencies with the necessary tools and modern laws that they need to make our communities safe. We have delivered.
They have asked us to increase offender accountability and to hold offenders accountable by being made to serve sentences that reflect the seriousness of those crimes. We have delivered
Canadians have asked us to be proactive by taking preventive measures to reduce crime before it happens. Again, we have delivered.
I want to touch on just a few of the examples on which our government has delivered for Canadians in these areas.
As an example, we are proud to have increased our country's law-enforcement ability by providing $400 million toward a police officer recruitment fund. In just two years, this fund has enabled us to increase the number of police officers in Canada by more than 1,800. This goes a long way to helping us increase law-enforcement presence in communities both large and small.
We have also passed many pieces of legislation that address the concerns we have heard from victims and Canadians across the country.
For the past five years, we have been fully engaged in promoting healthy, safe communities for Canadians. We have introduced many measures to tackle crime, particularly violent crime and gun crimes. For example, our government took action to crack down on drive-by shootings as well as other shootings that demonstrate reckless disregard for the life or safety of others.
For example, our government has taken action to crack down on drive-by shootings and other intentional shootings that demonstrate a reckless disregard for the life or safety of others. We have taken action to eliminate the shameful practice of granting two-for-one credit, and sometimes three-for-one credit, for time served before sentencing. With this important change, we are now ensuring truth in sentencing.
We have also extended the time period that a person convicted of a serious personal injury offence, including manslaughter, must wait before applying for a pardon.
We have also passed legislation to strengthen the national sex offender registry and the national DNA data bank, marking another tremendous step forward for the protection of vulnerable people from sex offenders. Importantly, the legislation allows the police to use the national sex offender registry proactively to prevent crime.
We have also passed legislation to restore the faith of Canadians in the corrections and conditional release system by ensuring that offenders can no longer be released at one-sixth of their sentences. The Abolition of Early Parole Act abolished the practice of accelerated parole review, which allowed those convicted of first time non-violent white collar offences to obtain day parole after serving one-sixth of their sentences and full parole after serving only one-third.
In addition, the government has also taken action to prevent crimes before they happen. In the last year, our government funded some 160 community-based crime prevention programs through its national crime prevention strategy. These programs had an impact on the lives of nearly 10,000 at-risk youth. Crucially, we have also ensured that the youth gang prevention fund continues to help at-risk youth by including an investment of $7.5 million annually as part of the next phase of Canada's economic action plan.
These are only a few of the measures we have taken to help make our streets and communities safer for law-abiding Canadian families.
However, there is more to do. That is why I am proud to be here today to talk about the safe streets and communities act.
Last May we told Canadians that if re-elected we would move quickly to introduce the past law and order legislation that would crack down on crime, gangs and terrorism. We said that we would do this within 100 sitting days of the new session of Parliament. Our government has pledged to finish what we started and move forward with this legislation to better protect Canadian families. We believe the legislation is a fair and reasonable response to ensure the safety of our communities.
Three departments are responsible for the elements found in the legislation, legislation that impacts Canadians from coast to coast to coast.
Public Safety Canada is responsible for four provisions under the safe streets and communities act. The first measure amends the International Transfer of Offenders Act. We propose to include public safety as an express purpose of the act. We also propose updating the decision making criteria used by the when making the decision to transfer Canadian offenders back to Canada to complete their sentences.
The second Public Safety Canada measure will move to enact the justice for victims of terrorism act and to amend the State Immunity Act to deter terrorism. What this means is that victims of terrorism will be able to launch a law suit in Canadian courts against the individual or organization that carried out the attack.
The third element falling within Public Safety Canada is a proposal to strengthen the legislation governing pardons. First, very important, the legislation would change the name from “pardon” to “record suspension”. We have heard from victims and victims rights groups that the word “pardon” indicates that somehow the government has forgiven the person for their crime. Forgiveness is not the government's to give. No one can forgive an offender for a crime except the victim, or the victim's family. This proposal will also change the legislation so that repeat serious offenders and those who commit sexual offences against children are no longer eligible to apply for a record suspension.
Finally, we propose to strengthen the management of offenders during their incarceration and conditional release and highlight the importance of correctional plans in the rehabilitation and reintegration of offenders.
There are several components within Bill that fall under the responsibility of the Department of Justice. It will increase the penalties imposed for sexual offences against minors.
As a father of young children, I welcome these changes to protect the youngest and most vulnerable members of our society. Bill would bring forward changes that create tougher sentences for individuals found guilty of the production and possession of illicit drugs for the purposes of trafficking. It would strengthen the laws that deal with young offenders, making sure they are held accountable for their actions and that their sentences fit the crimes that they have committed. It would also bring to an end the use of conditional sentences or house arrest for violent and property crimes.
In addition, there is legislation that falls under the responsibility of the Department of Citizenship and Immigration. Bill would amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to protect foreign workers who could become victims of human trafficking or exploitation. This is a very real problem in my city of Toronto. Finally, we will be able to pass legislation to deal with it.
None of this legislation is a surprise. Just as Canadians have been clear in supporting our efforts to improve safety and security in our communities, so too have we been clear that this legislation would be a priority in the early days of this new Parliament.
For these reasons, I urge all hon. members of the House to work with the government to ensure the swift passage of Bill .
Madam Speaker, I stand today in opposition to Bill , the omnibus crime bill. I do not stand in opposition to every part of the bill and indeed some parts of Bill C-10 worthwhile.
As a father myself, I have no objection to protecting children against pedophiles and sexual predators. I have no objection to protecting people against violent crimes, of course not, even though the Conservatives may have people believe otherwise. However, that is the rub with Bill , which throws so many pieces of legislation, nine pieces of legislation, aboard the one bus, the one omnibus bill.
I may agree with coming down hard on pedophiles, but I do not agree with filling prisons with people who probably should not be there, like the people who get caught with some marijuana plants. What will throwing a student into jail do for him or her, or for society in general, besides costing us a fortune in new human cages? My answer is nothing. It will do absolutely nothing.
Bill is also known as the safe streets and communities act which, to quote The Telegram, the daily newspaper in my riding of , sounds like a new and improved detergent, except Bill C-10 will not make our streets any cleaner. It will not wash away the crime. In fact, chances are, if we put a dirty sock through the omnibus cycle, the sock will come out just as dirty on the other end.
The Conservative detergent: so much of Bill is a waste of money. It will have no impact on the tougher elements of our society. If anything, Bill C-10 will soak up so much cash to keep what will eventually be our U.S.-style prisons going that there will not be any money left over for infrastructure, such as streets. Forget keeping our streets clean.
The Conservative government has yet to put a price tag on Bill , but it is fair to say it will cost untold billions of dollars as our prisons bulge at the seams. According to a joint statement by the John Howard Society and the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies, the increased costs associated with just one of the bills in Bill C-10 will be more than $5 billion. That is more than double current expenditures for the corrections systems alone.
Furthermore, the provinces and territories would have to contribute the largest portion of the increase. I am sure they will be delighted to step forward.
I do not know about other provinces, but Newfoundland and Labrador's prison system could not handle any more prisoners. Her Majesty's Penitentiary in St. John dates back to Victorian times. The original stone building first opened in 1859. The pen is an aging fortress that has been called an appalling throwback to 19th century justice, which sounds like Bill .
How do people in my riding feel about Bill ? I had one particular gentleman write to say he is disgusted. Let me quote from that letter:
|| This is taking us in the wrong direction both socially and fiscally. I do not want to live in a country with a justice system based on a model developed in the dark ages. We do not need more prisons. We do not need to be taking discretion away from justices of the peace, and we do not need more blanket mandatory sentencing guidelines that will do more harm than good.
|| Most of all...I'm concerned about “The Penalties for Organized Drug Crime Act”. Yes, I'm concerned about the ongoing substance abuse problems we have in this province and my concerns about the pending legislation doesn't mean I support a legal free for all when it comes to drugs, but increased mandatory sentences for growing a half dozen plants is insane...Who is helped by having a student, a future doctor or engineer, thrown in jail for a year and a half because they decided to make some hash for their own personal use? In what universe does that make sense?...Stop wasting money on cages and start spending it on hospital beds and textbooks.
That is the line that sticks, “Stop wasting money on cages and start spending it on hospital beds and textbooks”. That is a great quote.
According to Statistics Canada, in 2008-09 the average annual cost of keeping an inmate incarcerated was $110,000. Where I come from, in Newfoundland and Labrador, that would pay for roughly two degrees, or eight years of university.
To quote the daily newspaper from my riding once again:
|| We may buck the American trend — where increasing the number of prisoners has not brought a reduction in crime rates — but the smart money says we’ll simply pay more to keep more people in prison and do little to change crime rates, which are among the lowest we’ve had in decades. You can argue that tougher sentences will make Canada a harder place to do shifty business, but the jury’s out on whether it will end up making this country a better place to live.
The jury is still out.
Bill will not make Canada a better place to live. It will change Canada. It will change how we see ourselves as Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, as Canadians, and how we are seen on the world stage. Lock them up and throw away the key has not worked well in other tough love jurisdictions, the United States, for example.
For every 100,000 people, the United States holds 724 people in prison. In comparison, for every 100,000 people, Canada has 117 people in prison. That is a big difference.
The question that must be asked until there is an answer is, if there are longer stipulated jail sentences for crimes such as growing a few pot plants, who pays for the dramatic increases in the cost of incarceration of both federal and provincial prisons? Is that the next Conservative action plan or job plan that we have been waiting so long to hear about? Is it to build new cages across the country?
As for other sections of the omnibus crime bill, legislation that allows for victims of terrorism to sue perpetrators, including foreign countries, would do absolutely nothing to deter or prevent terrorism acts. To cut to the chase, suing a terrorist organization in a Canadian court would get us absolutely nowhere. No, that is not quite correct, it would get us in debt.
Returning to the section of Bill that would impose mandatory minimum sentences for the production, possession and trafficking in certain drugs like marijuana, experts have consistently said that mandatory minimum sentences do not work for reducing drug use, tackling organized crime, or for making our communities safer.
How about taking the money from building more cages and putting it into rehabilitation and retraining programs? That is a novel idea. That makes more sense. That is the Canadian way. Bill is not the Canadian way.
Nothing in the Conservative crime bill deals with prevention, but 80% of people in federal prison deal with at least one addiction. Dr. Julio Montaner, immediate past president of the International AIDS Society, said that the Conservative government's crime agenda would jeopardize the health of some marginalized people. He said:
||[the bill] would make it more difficult for physicians to deliver public health services to people who are poor, First Nations, mentally ill, at risk of HIV, or drug-addicted.
He also said:
|| This law is all about incarcerating the people that this government views as the “other Canadians” for which they have no time for or no interest.
Speaking for myself, my party believes in leaving nobody behind, leaving no Canadian behind, marginalizing nobody.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak in favour of Bill , the safe streets and communities bill.
Canadians gave our Conservative government a strong mandate to keep our streets and communities safe. Part of that important mandate is protecting Canadians both at home and abroad from threats of terrorism, while giving those who do fall victim to a terrorist act the tools they need to have their voices heard.
Since coming to office in 2006, we have been clear: a Conservative government is a government that will put the protection of law-abiding Canadians first. We have taken strong action to fulfill our commitment to protect Canadians by taking a tough on crime approach and giving our law enforcement agencies the resources and tools they need to do their jobs. We have also moved forward in many areas to crack down on crime and to ensure that our streets and communities are safe and secure.
When talking to my constituents, I hear a common theme. They tell me that they want a justice system that actually delivers justice and a corrections system that actually corrects. I believe the legislation in front of us today is an important step forward in that regard.
We will continue to reverse the shameful trend which began under the Trudeau regime where former solicitor general, Jean-Pierre Goyer, stated that the protection of society was a secondary objective to protecting the rights of criminals. Our Conservative government completely rejects that premise and will continue to work to return common sense to the correctional system.
Recently, all of us have witnessed the terrible consequences that terrorism can have for individuals and communities across the globe. In our time, terrorism has left casualties from New York to New Delhi. We know that Canada is not immune to the threat of radical-led terrorism. We need to recall the hundreds of Canadians who died in the atrocity of the Air India attack and all those who lost their lives on 9/11.
We should not forget that Canada has been named as a target by organizations such as Al-Qaeda. We have also seen the successful prosecution of homegrown terrorists who were arrested before they had a chance to carry out their sadistic plot.
It is starkly clear that Canada has a large role to play in the global fight against terrorism, a role that we have played and will continue to play in the battle against those who use senseless violence against civilians.
That is why I will focus my remarks on Bill today on justice for the victims of terrorism.
These amendments would strengthen Canada's ability to expose and cut off the material support for terrorism. They would ensure that those who do fall victim to terrorism are able to seek justice and that those who commit or support terrorist acts are held accountable for their actions.
Terrorist groups rarely act alone. The scale and sophistication of terrorist operations demand a vast amount of financial and organizational support. That support often comes from within states led by radical anti-western governments. Many observers have often described the relationship between terrorist groups and certain governments as one of a state operating within a state. Shockingly, on occasion, private individuals living right here in Canada can be sources of support for those who wish to attack our country.
The fact is that money is the lifeblood of terrorism. One of the most effective ways to stop terrorists is to strike at their largest vulnerability, which is their wallets. Bill aims to do that by holding terrorists and those who support them fully financially accountable.
Bill would create a cause of action to allow victims of terrorism to sue terrorists and supporters of terrorism for any loss or damages that occurred as a result of terrorist acts committed anywhere in the world on or after January 1, 1985. The target of these suits will include individuals, organizations and certain states that the government has listed for their support to terrorism.
In the case of states, Bill proposes the creation of a government list of states that there are reasonable grounds to believe support terror. Those states would no longer be immune from civil action. This would allow Canadian courts to hold these supporters of terrorism accountable for their conduct.
On the recommendation of the , in consultation with the , a state would be added to a list of designated states if there are reasonable grounds to believe that the state supports or has supported a terrorist entity listed under the Criminal Code.
The Criminal Code currently lists 44 entities as terrorist organizations. These organizations are subject to rigorous and regular review. States that financially support these organizations cannot be considered a friend of Canada.
We will take all the appropriate precautions to minimize any potential negative impact on Canadian trade or foreign relations or threats to Canadian personnel, interests and citizens abroad when listing and delisting states.
Bill would also establish a review mechanism to ensure the timely removal of states from a list if they clean up their act and no longer support terrorism. The , in consultation with the , would review the list every two years to determine whether listed states should remain on the list. Ministers would also review information on non-listed states every two years to determine whether any other state should be added to that list.
Additionally, a listed state could apply to be removed from the list by submitting a written application. Once this application is received, the would, after consulting with the , decide whether there were reasonable grounds to recommend to the Governor in Council that the state no longer be listed.
As important as the ability to sue states that support terror is that individuals and corporations that support these actions would also be held liable. Financiers of terror would be held accountable.
Bill would do more than just create a cause of action for victims of terrorism. It would also allow victims who have successfully sued a terrorist entity or supporter to request assistance from the and the in identifying and locating in Canada the property of that entity.
Several years ago, the world witnessed the effectiveness of those measures when the families of the Lockerbie bombing victims were given the right to sue the Gadhafi Libya regime for the role it played in supporting this horrific act of terrorism. The former government of Libya subsequently admitted its part in the attack, provided compensation to the families and renounced the use of terrorism.
Creating this cause of action would hold terrorism and its supporters to account through the courts, giving victims the opportunity to seek justice. This is something victims have sought for some time and our Conservative government is proud to deliver.
I urge all members to give speedy passage to Bill . I especially urge my colleagues in the NDP to support the bill and put the rights of victims and law-abiding Canadians ahead of the rights of terrorists and their supporters. We must stand united in sending a message to those who commit terrorist acts and to those whose support them that they will be held accountable for their actions.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill , erroneously entitled the “Safe Streets and Communities Act”. Bill C-10 is comprised of nine stand-alone justice bills that died, for good reason I might add, during the previous parliamentary session. These nine bills, justly negated then, are back to haunt Canada in the form of an omnibus mega-bill, or what some have referred to as an ominous bill, seeking to destroy the fair and equitable justice system Canadians from coast to coast to coast have come to rely on for their justice and protection.
I am especially disheartened to see that, at a time when almost two million Canadians are looking for jobs in a struggling economy, the Conservatives' priority is backwards crime legislation.
The Liberal Party knows Canadians want a safe and fair justice system. The facts tell us that Bill will not deliver that. The Conservatives chose to ignore the facts and instead are intent on pushing through C-10. What we witnessed here today was a miscarriage of justice with the closure motion, which passed because the government has a majority. It is scary when things like that happen because members of the government are speaking from both sides of their mouths.
In fact, the said in speaking to another closure motion, “If the bill was the right thing to do, why did the Prime Minister do the wrong thing by invoking closure”?
At one time, another member of the government, who is now the , said, “I begin by condemning this government for allowing itself to trample on democracy and democratic deliberation by invoking closure and time allocation on Bill C-36”.
Another member of the government, now the , said, “Let me be clear. What is happening in this motion, in this use of closure, is an attempt to stifle the debate, to shut it down, to sideline it, to distract, to detract away from the opposition's job to be diligent in asking questions”.
I mention those comments to point out the miscarriage of justice here today with this closure motion and how the government is speaking from both sides of its mouth.
Despite the overwhelming evidence and substantive trial and failure of the very same legislation in the United States as we are seeing today in Bill, the Conservatives blindly steamroll ahead. If this type of legislation had any positive effect at all on the safety of citizens and the protection of victims, the United States would be the safest country in the world. Sadly, that is not the case. If C-10 type legislation truly worked, we would not see the Americans' experience with their failed system for over 25 years. For example, Newt Gingrich, who many consider to be the architect of the botched American prison system, declared that his tough-on-crime agenda failed and that the criminal justice system founded on the same blind policies included in is “broken”.
The Americans spent $68 million in 2010 on corrections, which is 300% more than was spent 25 years before, and their prison population is growing 13 times more rapidly than their population. Clearly, the American model of mandatory minimums did not work in the United States of America and predictably, it will not work in Canada.
We already know that. One need merely to consider the evidence to conclude that the failed justice policies of our American friends imported to Canada will only become failed justice policies of our own. Why is the government not prepared to learn from those mistakes instead of forging ahead prepared to make the same mistakes at enormous cost to the Canadian taxpayer?
Unfortunately for Canadians, the Conservatives have a penchant for ignoring evidence and logic. The fact is that crime in Canada is decreasing. According to Statistics Canada it is at its lowest level since 1973. Existing policies developed in consultation with the provinces by previous governments, many of them Liberal by the way, are working.
The lack of logic was on display only last year when former Conservative minister Stockwell Day reported that the Conservatives intended to build more prisons in order to address unreported crime. This is just one example of the Conservatives' appetite to blindly conclude that the solution to any problem is to build more prisons. That is the problem.
I read with interest recently a letter to the editor written by Dr. Jim Lang of the Department of Theory and Policy Studies in Education, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto. According to Dr. Lang, the tells us that his government will not let facts or statistics derail its ideological decision to spend our money to make us feel safer on our streets whether we think it is best for us or not. He said that the justice minister cites statistics, the election outcome for example, as justification for the same decision. What is interesting about the content of the letter is that Dr. Lang said that this does not make him feel safer at all, just confused and worried about what those guys will do next and on what pretext.
I agree wholeheartedly with his opinion given that while the government has a majority, it only has 39% of the popular vote, so 61% of voters did not vote for the Conservatives, yet they are going blindly ahead putting something in place that they think is the right thing to do without even considering the views of the majority of Canadians.
Another letter, written by William Trudell, the chair of the Canadian Council of Criminal Defence Lawyers, pleaded with parliamentarians to carefully review this legislation to ensure that it is in the best interests of all Canadians and does not fracture our criminal justice system. The writer said that it does not take a tough on crime agenda to allow judicial discretion to ensure that those genuinely in need find themselves in hospitals and not jails.
Unfortunately, the Conservative crime agenda fails to understand the connection between issues of addiction and mental health and the issue of crime. It is a crime that those very vulnerable in our society will be impacted negatively by Bill .
The government refuses to come clean about the true costs of its crime agenda, which begs the question as to why. The Parliamentary Budget Officer, Kevin Page, said that the price tag for just a few of the measures of the crime agenda will cost over $13 billion. That is the price tag for just a few, not the entire nine bills that are included in this omnibus bill.
As the global economy contracts, Canada has to ensure that we get value for tax dollars. We have heard the government say that, yet Conservatives spend untold billions on a failed crime agenda that takes a blind and unrealistic approach to public safety and does not create safer communities and is not a wise or effective use of Canadians' hard-earned money. Many of these costs will be downloaded on the provinces which can ill-afford such a burden.
I represent the people of Newfoundland and Labrador as the member of Parliament for . Our province does not need to be saddled with more inmates and stripped of any judicial discretion. The Liberal Party will not put Canadians at risk by helping to implement this dangerous bill. In order to safeguard the rights and safety of all Canadians, we must oppose Bill .
While the government stands on a soapbox to promote the bill and claims that the bill will help victims, sadly, legislation such as Bill C-10 will only ensure a continued cycle of victimization. The evidence indicates that preventive policy and education, not tougher sentences and bloated prisons, are the path to safer streets and communities. After all, the government can talk all it wants about the rights of victims, but the truth is the right of every Canadian is to not be victimized at all.
The Liberal Party is committed to ensuring a justice approach that is evidence based, cost-effective and focused on crime prevention.
The Canadian Bar Association has said that the mandatory minimum sentences and overreliance on incarceration, constraints on judges' discretion to ensure a fair result in each case and the bill's impact on specific already disadvantaged groups are problems with the bill.
Why is it we do not listen to those who deal with the people who need the services on a daily basis to ensure that they are not victimized? Why is it we are refusing to listen to them? Why is it we are not hearing what is being said?
Mr. Speaker, I had to rejoin the debate after hearing the speech from my hon. colleague opposite.
If the Liberal Party opposes mandatory minimums, then why did it bring in mandatory minimums in response to 9/11 in its Anti-terrorism Act?
The Liberals are not opposed to mandatory minimums. They are just opposed when Conservatives bring in mandatory minimums. The Liberals are all in favour of them and brought in mandatory minimums themselves. Why? Because the public believes in governments that respond to and get tough on crime.
The hon. member presents our crime agenda as though it is a this-or-that approach. We have and support successful programs that help those who are most in need and those who can be subject to restorative justice. We have those programs in my riding. I am proud to support them because they work.
However, with regard to career criminals they do not work. Therefore, we need a justice system that is about justice, not just about serving lawyers.
My hon. colleague also said the government is ignoring evidence. It is quite the opposite. As a matter of fact, it is Liberal attorneys general in Ontario, P.E.I. and British Columbia who are supporting our legislation because they recognize that this works. The member said the Liberal Party is against it. That is absolutely not true.
Finally, she said that we are acting blindly. It is quite the opposite. We know exactly what we are doing. We are responding to the mandate Canadians gave us. This is what Canadians elected us to do and we will get it done. It is because we are doing this that we were entrusted with a majority government and the Liberals have only 34 seats.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the second reading debate on Bill . It is a bill that is very important to residents in my riding of Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound and certainly across Canada.
The June 2011 Speech from the Throne recognized the government's fundamental duty to protect the personal safety of all Canadians. Toward this end we have committed to reintroduce law and order legislation to combat crime, including protecting children from sex offenders, eliminating house arrest and pardons for serious crimes, and protecting the most vulnerable in society, our children.
Bill supports this commitment. It is a comprehensive package of law reforms that had been proposed in nine bills before the previous Parliament, but which died with the dissolution of that Parliament for the general election.
Part 1, clauses 2 to 9, of Bill C-10 includes reforms to support victims of terrorism. These were proposed in former Bill .
Part 2, clauses 10 to 51, proposes sentencing reforms to address child sexual exploitation, serious drug offences, and to eliminate the use of conditional sentences for serious, violent and property crimes. It incorporates reforms that were proposed in former Bills , and .
Part 3, clauses 52 to 166, includes post-sentencing reforms to increase offender accountability, eliminate pardons for serious crimes, and revise the criteria for determining international transfers of Canadian offenders. These reforms were proposed in former Bills , , and .
Part 4, clauses 167 to 204, proposes reforms to the Youth Criminal Justice Act to better protect Canadians from violent young offenders. These had been proposed in former Bill .
Part 5 of Bill proposes amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to protect foreign workers against abuse and exploitation, including sexual exploitation and human trafficking. These amendments had been proposed in former Bill .
Many of these proposed reforms were debated and studied in the previous Parliament. I welcome their reintroduction in this new Parliament.
I will focus my remaining time on Bill 's proposal to better protect children against sexual exploitation.
As with its predecessor Bill , the objectives of Bill 's child sexual exploitation reforms are twofold. First, they seek to ensure that for sentencing purposes all child sexual offences are treated severely and consistently. Second, they seek to protect children by preventing the commission of these offences. Bill does this by imposing stiffer and stronger penalties.
Bill proposes numerous amendments to enhance the penalties or sentences of imprisonment that are currently imposed for sexual offences involving child victims. It imposes new or higher mandatory minimum sentences of imprisonment as well as higher maximum penalties for certain offences.
Currently, the Criminal Code has an inconsistent approach regarding penalties for sexual offences involving a child victim. For instance, there are 12 child-specific sexual offences that impose a mandatory minimum sentence of imprisonment, yet there are other child-specific offences that do not impose a minimum penalty.
Similarly, the general sexual offences that apply to both adult and child victims alike do not impose any mandatory minimum penalty where the victim is a child.
As the grandfather of two granddaughters, one six years old and the other three years old, this means a lot to me. The bill serves to strengthen the laws that protect our children and the vulnerable. There should be no question about supporting this bill.
Mandatory minimum penalties are exception In the Criminal Code of Canada. Generally, they have been imposed because Parliament has determined that the nature of a particular offence is sufficiently serious to include a sentence of imprisonment. That sentence was devised to best reflect the facts and circumstances of the case and does not get lost between the mandatory minimum period of time to the prescribed maximum penalty. Where mandatory minimum sentences are imposed, a conditional sentence of imprisonment is never appropriate for the offence.
Given this understanding of mandatory minimum sentences of imprisonment, the effect of imposing these in only some but not all sexual offences where the victim is a child suggests that some child sexual offences are more serious than others. It is ludicrous to suggest that some child victims have been less victimized than others. I cannot understand that thought process.
In my view, this contradicts a fundamental value of Canadian society, namely that all children are among our most vulnerable and that all are deserving of equal protection against all forms of child sexual abuse and exploitation. Therefore, I welcome the proposals of Bill to impose mandatory minimum sentences for seven sexual offences wherein the victim is a child and where currently mandatory minimum sentences are not imposed.
Bill also proposes to impose higher mandatory minimum sentences for nine offences that already carry a minimum sentence. These increases would ensure that the minimum sentence is not only in line with the offence in question but also is coherent with the minimum sentences imposed for other offences.
As well, Bill proposes to create two new offences to prevent the commission of a contact sexual offence against a child. Both of these offences would also impose mandatory minimum sentences.
I would also note that Bill proposes a few sentencing reforms that were not included in Bill . These changes are entirely consistent with the overall sentencing objectives of former Bill C-54 and seek to better reflect the particularly heinous nature of these offences.
Finally, these changes would increase the maximum penalty and corresponding mandatory minimum sentences for four child sex offences. When proceeded on summary conviction, subsections 163.1(2), making child pornography, and 163.1(3), distribution, et cetera, of child pornography, propose to increase the maximum penalty from 18 months to 2 years less a day as well as increase the current minimum sentence from 90 days to 6 months.
In section 170, parent or guardian procuring sexual activity, the bill proposes to increase the minimum penalty from 6 months to 1 year and the maximum penalty from 5 years to 10 years where the victim is under the age of 16 years, and the minimum from 45 days to 6 months and the maximum from 2 years to 5 years respectively where the victim is 16 to 17 years old.
I hope that all hon. members will work with us to support the expeditious enactment of these much needed reforms.
In closing, as members of Parliament we all have a number of issues that come before us. In my seven years in this great place the one thing that I consistently hear from my constituents, especially those with children, young children and grandchildren, is the lack of rights for victims in this country. We worry more about the rights of criminals than victims, which is a sad case. The pendulum has swung too far one way. I am proud to be part of a government that would straighten that out.
I look forward to all hon. members in the House supporting Bill .
Mr. Speaker, there is possibly one thing we agree on, and that is the Conservatives have branded and wrapped themselves in a cloak of crime and punishment. As a result, they are blind to the evidence, the costs and the fact that we have the lowest crime rate since 1973.
The Conservatives are blind to building safe and healthy communities. They are blind to the horrendous experience of the U.S. in its war on drugs regime, which now is slowly repealed, including the repeal of mandatory minimum sentencing, as my colleague from just pointed out, because of its catastrophic failure on people and society overall. The Conservatives are blind to the evidence in Canada and to the real impact these bills would have on the lives of people and communities overall.
Added to that, the Conservative members are blind to parliamentary democracy. With this bill and the steady stream of other bills that we have seen, they are only interested in manipulating people, creating fear and division and creating a them and us scenario. I believe, from the bottom of my heart, the omnibus bill before us today is offensive. It is politically motivated and would have enormous negative impacts.
I was involved in some of these bills previously, particularly the drug crime bill, which I will go into.
Listening to the debate, I find it astounding to hear how the Conservatives are completely divorced from the reality of what is going on. They cannot recognize that we have the lowest crime rate since 1973. They cannot comprehend or deal with the fact that federal and provincial prisons are skyrocketing and prisoners are double and even triple bunking, resulting, in part, from bills like the Truth in Sentencing Act, which was passed in the last Parliament.
I wish the Conservatives had the courage to bring forward a truth in prison costs bill because maybe then we would have a better handle on what is really going on here.
The fact is these nine bills have no relevancy together. They have been politically put together in one bill to ram them through the House in 100 days.
That defies the reality of the 2010-11 annual report that just came out from the Public Prosecution Service of Canada. It shows us that almost three-quarters, or 72%, of all cases handled by federal prosecutors last year involved drug cases, about 58,000 cases. Of those cases, only about 2% were complex, meaning that the vast majority of them were actually straightforward in terms of the impact of some of these bills and the kind of law enforcement approach that the Conservative government has taken.
The Conservatives also hid the real costs of this bill and all the bills in the package from Canadians during the election. We know that the real costs will be billions of dollars both in terms of the provincial cost in prisons and the federal costs.
I have heard so many times that the Conservatives are trying to bring in the bill on mandatory minimum sentencing for drug crimes as a bill that will be tough on organized crime and big traffickers. We heard the say that again today, as he has so many times.
The reality is that mandatory minimums do not deter organized crime. Instead, they almost exclusively affect small dealers, street level traffickers and non-violent offenders, while leaving the door wide open for organized crime to step in and fill the void created by the sweeps at the lower end. Even the Canadian Justice Department, in its report of 2002, concluded that mandatory minimum sentences were the least effective in relation to drug offences.
The has never been able to offer a shred of evidence that mandatory minimums are a deterrence, that they work. He was grilled on this in committee the last time the bill went through the House. This is now the third time we have had the bill before us. The minister could not offer any evidence that mandatory minimums were effective or that they would deal with our complex drug issues. All the evidence is to the contrary. The evidence indicates that the bill would have many harmful effects, including increasing the prison population and changing Canada's drug strategy from a four pillar approach that includes enforcement, prevention, treatment and harm reduction.
We know the Conservatives changed that strategy in 2007. Again, they are totally focused on the proposition that somehow a new bill, a new offence, a stiffer penalty, a mandatory minimum would deal with some of these complex issues.
I have a letter that has three pages of organizations and individual experts who have all studied this legislation, particularly, as it applies to mandatory minimums. They all have come to the same conclusion. There is no evidence that the legislation is warranted and would actually assist our society overall.
I would point out, again, more evidence. The auditor general, when she audited drug enforcement a few years ago when we had a special committee on the non-medical use of drugs, produced a very significant report that called for an increased emphasis on prevention, treatment and rehabilitation. What became clear was something like 73% of federal funds were being spent on enforcement, 14% on treatment, 7% on research, 2.6% on prevention and 2.6% on harm reduction.
Even the auditor general, from a very neutral, independent standpoint, came to the conclusion that the so-called drug strategy was not working, that it was not effective and that it could not be shown to be transparent or actually assisting in terms of drug issues in local communities.
The drug bill, in particular, which the Conservatives tried to get through the Senate and through the House, is taking Canada in a completely wrong direction. It is a direction that is very expensive, it will have no effect on drug use itself and it will only increase the prison population, creating a new set of overpopulation that with it will come health and safety concerns and problems that then will manifest themselves within the prison system. Anybody who does not understand that, as I said at the beginning, is simply fooling themselves and is blind to the reality and the evidence that is now before us.
The Conservative government changed the drug strategy in 2007. As result, we have now been down this path similar to the U.S. experience. The Americans have begun to understand that even the most right-wing conservatives, as quoted by my colleague, in the U.S. recognize the massive failure of the course of incarcerating people, of relying on an enforcement approach and mandatory minimums. Surely, Canada has lessons to learn from this.
I want to say this loud and clear, and I am very glad that all my colleagues are speaking out on the bill. We feel the bill is offensive in the way it puts together nine significant bills that should be dealt with individually. In particular, there is no evidence that the drug bill will work. On the contrary, all the evidence indicates that it will be harmful and costly. It is the wrong direction for our country to take.
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to be in the House today to talk about the important changes to the Youth Criminal Justice Act that are included in the .
Since coming to power in 2006, our government has been working hard to ensure that Canadians can feel safe and secure in their communities. A key part of this ongoing work has focused on improvements to our youth criminal justice system. In particular, the government is taking action to strengthen the ways in which the system deals with serious, repeat and violent young offenders. My remarks today will focus on some of the key proposals that address those concerns.
First, the proposed amendments ensure that protection of society remains a key goal of the youth criminal justice system.
While the principles of the youth criminal justice system currently identify the long-term protection of the public as an objective of the act, the bill before us would make it clear that the youth criminal justice system is intended to protect the public by holding young offenders accountable, by promoting their rehabilitation and reintegration into society, and by preventing crime by addressing the circumstances underlying their offending behaviour.
A youth justice system that fails to protect society fails Canadians. Canadians have the right to be protected from crime, including youth crime, and the Government of Canada is committed to achieving that goal.
During our committee hearings on the former Bill , some witnesses expressed the view that this change to the principles of the Youth Criminal Justice Act would move us toward a more punitive youth justice system and away from a system that emphasizes rehabilitation and reintegration.
In fact, if members look at the full statement of principles in the amendment, it is clear that this is simply not the case. Indeed, the proposed amendment specifically states that rehabilitation, reintegration and crime prevention are key to the protection of society.
Furthermore, the bill also proposes amending the principles of the Youth Criminal Justice Act by adding a fundamental principle of justice already articulated by the Supreme Court of Canada, namely that the youth criminal justice system must be based on the principle of diminished moral blameworthiness or diminished culpability.
Therefore, the proposed changes to the principles reflect a balanced approach that, together with the preservation of the existing principles, will guide those working within the youth criminal justice system to respond to youth in a more effective manner.
The proposed amendments also make important changes to the principles of sentencing in the Youth Criminal Justice Act. The amendments add specific deterrence and denunciation as principles to guide a judge in sentencing young offenders. Right now, deterrence and denunciation are not even included as objectives in youth sentencing decisions, even though many Canadians believe that young offenders' sentences should be designed to deter further offending and to send a message to that particular young offender before the court that criminal behaviour is simply not acceptable.
However, the proposed amendment would also make it very clear that a sentence must still be proportionate to the seriousness of the offence and to the degree of responsibility of the young person for that offence. That means, for example, that judges will not be able to give a young offender an extra-long sentence just to send a message to other youth that the unlawful behaviour was wrong.
Once again, in my view these changes, taken together with the existing principles of sentencing in the Youth Criminal Justice Act, represent a balanced approach that will allow courts to respond to youth crime in an appropriate and effective way.
The package of reforms also includes several significant changes to the definition sections of the Youth Criminal Justice Act. The amended act would define “serious offence” as any indictable offence that carries a maximum penalty in the Criminal Code or in another act of Parliament of five years or more.
This definition includes both property offences, such as auto theft and theft over $5,000, and violent offences, such as common assault, sexual assault and robbery.
Right now there is no definition of “serious offence” in the Youth Criminal Justice Act. This new definition will have important implications for pretrial detention, and I will touch on them in a few moments.
The amendments also expand the meaning of “violent offence” under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.
The current scope of “violent offence” under the act was interpreted by the Supreme Court of Canada as including offences in which a young offender causes or attempts to cause or threatens to cause bodily harm, but not to include other offences that endanger someone's life or safety. An example is dangerous driving.
The proposed definition includes offences in which a young person actually endangers the life or safety of another person by creating the substantial likelihood of causing bodily harm. This new definition would have application in a number of areas, including the imposition of custodial sentences and the lifting of publication bans.
The proposed amendments to the Youth Criminal Justice Act modify the restrictions on the use of custody as a youth sentencing measure. Apart from exceptional cases, currently a court cannot impose a custodial sentence on a young offender unless that young offender has committed a violent offence, failed to comply with previous non-custodial sentences, or committed an indictable offence for which an adult would be liable to imprisonment for a term of more than two years, and also has a history that demonstrates a pattern of findings of guilt.
The proposed amendment pertains to the third circumstance, namely to cases in which a young offender has committed a non-violent indictable offence for which an adult is liable to more than two years in prison. The amendment would simply allow and give discretion to a judge to impose a custodial sentence in such a case if the youth's history demonstrated a pattern of findings of guilt or of extrajudicial sanctions or both.
This means that custody could be an option for a young offender who has been found guilty of a non-violent offence and who has in the past engaged in criminal behaviour for which the youth has admitted responsibility, but which was dealt with through extrajudicial sanctions. This simply allows the court to take the youth's full history into account to help determine the appropriate sentence.
The bill also creates a requirement that records be kept when extrajudicial measures are used by law enforcement, which will make it easier to find patterns of repeated reoffending that the police and others may take into account in deciding on appropriate interventions, such as whether to use another extrajudicial measure or proceed through the courts.
Changes to the publication provisions in the Youth Criminal Justice Act are also contained in this package of reforms. Currently the identity of a young offender is protected, and identifying information can be published only in limited circumstances; for example, the publication ban is automatically lifted if a youth receives an adult sentence. The publication ban could also be lifted by the judge in cases in which a youth has received a youth sentence for an offence that falls within a very narrow category of the most serious violent offences.
The new law requires judges simply to consider lifting publication bans whenever a youth sentence is imposed on a youth found guilty of a violent offence. The publication ban could be lifted, but only if the judge finds that the young person poses a significant risk of committing another violent offence and only if the lifting of the ban is necessary to protect the public. It will always be up to the prosecution to convince the judge that lifting the ban is necessary.
As the title of the bill indicates, the amendments to the Youth Criminal Justice Act contained in the safe streets and communities act would make violent and repeat young offenders more accountable for their actions and better protect Canadians. This is what Canadians expect of their youth justice system, and it is an important priority for our government.
I ask all members of the House to join together with me and the government to focus on the concerns common to all Canadians.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to the omnibus crime bill, Bill . I support the sections of the bill that aim to protect children from dangerous sexual predators.
In fact, I have introduced legislation myself, Bill , that makes it an offence for an adult to communicate with a minor by any electronic means. This bill would close a loophole in the Criminal Code that allows sexual predators to communicate with children by any electronic devices such as cellular phones or even the social media. This legislation would give more tools to the courts to address the issues of child luring and abuse.
These changes to the Criminal Code are long overdue. This legislation was first introduced in 2008 by my predecessor Dawn Black. I brought forward this legislation when I was first elected and I recently reintroduced it in this session. The government has not addressed this loophole in the Criminal Code for years now. The Conservatives want to use it as window dressing for building mega prisons.
The world has changed in three and a half years, with cellphone and Internet use exploding. During these years, the government has left children unprotected. The government should have taken swift action and moved on this bill but has instead included it in a highly controversial omnibus bill which has many problems associated with it.
The people of New Westminster, Coquitlam and Port Moody want effective public safety policies from the government. Coquitlam has one of the lowest police-to-population ratios in British Columbia. The police are constantly being asked to do more with less and this crime omnibus bill will only exacerbate the problem.
If the government were serious about protecting neighbourhoods, then it would ensure that communities like Coquitlam have adequate funding for the RCMP. The federal government has yet to deliver on its 2006 commitment to fund 2,500 new RCMP officers and to sit down with municipalities to review their community policing needs.
I believe we need to focus on crime prevention. My riding has experienced gang violence, a prevalent issue in the lower mainland. We need to increase funding for youth gang prevention programs as well as the number of police officers on the street. We need to prevent kids from getting involved with gangs to begin with.
In my riding we have a very successful youth restorative justice program. One organization, Communities Embracing Restorative Action, has been working in my riding since 1999. It aims to provide a just and meaningful response to crime, rehabilitate people who commit crime and to engage the community. The organization also offers preventive programs, running an empowering youth program in local schools. The program is aimed at crime prevention to give young people tools and information before crime emerges, and to build strong and inclusive relationships at an early age. The program has grown to be successful and is an excellent alternative for working with our youth.
We also need to increase support to those suffering from drug addiction and mental health problems. This legislation would increase the overrepresentation of offenders with mental health and addiction problems in our prison system. Our prison system is already strained for resources and resource programs. Currently, only one in five inmates has access to programs for anger management and substance abuse. How will the prison system cope with an influx of inmates needing this treatment?
This is one of the key problems with this crime omnibus bill. It downloads an extra cost and burden to provincial and territorial governments. To date, there has been no analysis nor consultation related to the increased costs for enforcement and prosecution which will be downloaded onto the provinces and territories.
Paula Mallea from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives states:
|| The cost of the [government's] crime agenda will be colossal, and a large part of it (some say most) will be borne by the provinces, who are responsible for implementing whatever the feds pass. So provinces and territories (many of them in elections as we speak) will be expected to pay for additional courts, clerks, prisons, Crown Attorneys, judges, sheriffs, court reporters and so on.
In British Columbia, our court system is already strained. Our prisons are already overcrowded. According to the B.C. government employees' union that represents prison guards in British Columbia, says jails in the province are at 150% to 200% in overcrowded conditions. Also, understaffing and overcrowding is responsible for an increase in attacks on prison guards. The province of British Columbia closed nine prisons in 2003 and made cutbacks to the corrections system.
How are the provinces and territories to deal with an influx of prisoners who are sent to jail on mandatory minimums?
Growing even six marijuana plants would trigger an automatic six month sentence with an extra three months if it is done in a rental unit, or is deemed a public safety hazard. According to Neil Boyd, a criminologist at the Simon Fraser University, this legislation could increase the proportion of marijuana criminals in B.C. jails from less than 5% to around 30%.
Has the government taken this into account? Is this the best use of our resources? Has this been fully costed? Unfortunately, I think the answer is no.
One of the key concerns with this bill is the cost. When the Conservative government came to power in 2006, the federal corrections system cost nearly $1.6 billion a year. By 2013-14, according to the department's own projections, the cost of our federal penitentiary system will have increased to $3.147 billion. In 2010-11, more than $517 million will be spent on prison construction. According to the Parliamentary Budget Officer, the total annual cost per prison cell is about $260,000, while a new high security cell amounts to about $600,000.
Aside from the cost associated with actually building prisons, the cost to incarcerate inmates is high. The average cost for a female inmate is about $343,000 per year. For a male inmate in maximum security the cost is $223,000 while medium security is $141,000 year. Even while out on parole the average cost per inmate is $39,084 per year.
The crime rate continues to decline. The crime severity index, which measures the seriousness of crime, also dropped to its lowest point since the measure became available in 1998. So why is the government putting forward such costly legislation when crime rates continue to drop? Why is the government pursuing tough on crime policies that have failed so miserably in other jurisdictions such as the United States?
The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world. Much of this is the result of mandatory minimums and the so-called war on drugs. It has not made the United States a safer place. In fact, most evidence indicates that it has not deterred crime and could even lead to less safe conditions in prisons and in communities.
Just as the costs are expected to be a large burden on our provinces and territories, the costs have proven to be crippling for the states. For example, Texas has recently moved away from using mandatory minimums because the costs to the state were too high.
The bill is not based on evidence. The government has failed to produce information that its legislation to impose mandatory minimums and lengthen sentences would have any deterrence on crime. The the other day is quoted as saying, “We're not governing on the basis of the latest statistics”.
It has been shown time and again that the government fails to understand the importance of statistics, facts and science. To put forward such costly legislation without having statistics to back it up is inappropriate. To put forward legislation based on failed U.S. policies is shortsighted. We need to be moving forward not backward.
Mandatory minimums remove judicial discretion and this is highly problematic. In some cases, it could lead to judges giving lesser sentences then they otherwise would because they need to rely solely on legislation for sentencing.
According to the Canadian Bar Association, there are concerns with several aspects of the government's proposed omnibus crime bill, including mandatory minimum sentences, an overreliance on incarceration, constraints on judicial discretion to ensure a fair result in each case, and the bill's impact on specific already disadvantaged groups.
While the bill has some parts that I am in favour of, it is only on a case-by-case basis.
My concern is that the government has mixed good legislation in with bad and plans to ram it through all at once. It is ineffective and expensive. I cannot support the bill as it stands.
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate this opportunity to speak in support of Bill , legislation that would further strengthens our government's already impressive track record of keeping our streets and communities safe.
The people of tell me every day, in letters, phone calls, as well as visits to my office, that they want this government to crack down on crime.
I am pleased to speak today in support of Bill , the .
The legislation before us today builds on this work which Canadians have given us a strong mandate to continue, the work of that impressive track record.
One very important component of our government's efforts to build safer streets and communities involves ongoing reforms to help ensure the system of corrections in this country actually works to correct offenders. I would therefore like to focus my remarks on this very important area.
I will begin with the victims of crime because, when it comes to our corrections system, they deserve to have their interests and concerns heard and know that their government is listening.
The current act clearly recognizes that victims of crime have an interest in the correctional process and yet victims and their advocates have expressed dissatisfaction with the current law. They have consistently called for improvements that would ensure a stronger voice in the process. This government has heard their concerns. We have listened and now we are acting on those concerns.
As it stands now, victims sometimes travel long distances to attend parole hearings, but if offenders withdraw their participation, the hearing could be cancelled at the last minute. This creates both a financial and emotional burden for victims.
The bill would remove the ability of offenders to cancel their parole hearings less than two weeks in advance, and victims would have the right to ask why the offender has waived that parole hearing. These measures would go a long way to preserving peace of mind for victims.
Bill would also enshrine in law a victim's right to attend and make statements at parole hearings. In addition, it would enable victims to request relevant information about an offender's time in custody, including reasons for transfer between institutions, or why they have been granted temporary absence and participation in their correctional plan.
Additionally, the Corrections and Conditional Release Act would be amended to expand the information that may be disclosed to victims by CSC and the Parole Board of Canada. This includes providing information on the reason or reasons for offender transfers with, whenever possible, advance notice of transfers to minimum security institutions; disclosing information on offender program participation and any convictions for serious disciplinary offences; and providing guardians and caregivers of dependants of victims who are deceased, ill or otherwise incapacitated with the same information that victims themselves can receive. Such changes would help to ensure that the interests of victims are front and centre.
The second major area of reform relates to the responsibility and accountability of offenders. Additionally, the Corrections and Conditional Release Act would be amended to allow for the establishment of incentive measures designed to promote offender participation in their correctional plan.
A successful transition to the community does not happen by accident or through wishful thinking. It demands that offenders play an active role in their rehabilitation. That is why the bill before the House stresses that rehabilitation is a shared responsibility between offenders and Correctional Service Canada.
Offenders would be expected to respect others, obey the rules and actively participate in fulfilling the goals of their correctional plans. To that end, each correctional plan would set out expectations for behaviour, participation in any programs and fulfilment of any court ordered financial obligations.
The third area of reform relates to the management of offenders and their re-integration into the community. In short, we need to do better so that we better protect law-abiding Canadians in all conditional release decisions. To that end, this legislation proposes to give police the power to arrest without warrant any offender who appears to be in breach of his or her release conditions.
Finally, the bill would automatically suspend the parole or statutory release of offenders who receive a new custodial sentence.
In the final area of reform, Bill would modernize the system of discipline in federal penitentiaries. Specifically, it would create in law new penalties for breaking rules, such as disrespectful, intimidating or assaultive behaviour, including throwing bodily substances. It would also restrict visits for inmates who have been segregated for serious disciplinary offences.
As we have heard, Bill proposes several fundamental reforms to the corrections and conditional release system to help ensure that our correctional system is actually correcting offenders.
The amendments that our Conservative government is proposing would enhance offender responsibility and accountability and strengthen the management of offenders during their incarceration and conditional release. These amendments would also modernize the system of disciplinary sanctions in federal correctional facilities and give victims the opportunity to request more information about the offender who has harmed them. All in all, the amendments would reinforce and build on the work already under way to strengthen the corrections and conditional release system.
Today we know that many of the offenders arriving in Canada's correctional system also arrive with histories of violent offences. More offenders than ever have gang or organized crime affiliations, and nearly four out of five now arrive at a federal institution with a serious abuse problem. In addition, an increasing number of offenders have serious mental health issues. Such changes in the offender population require a new approach to corrections and conditional release. That is why the government is moving forward with the proposals in Bill .
The reforms being proposed would better serve victims by increasing the information that may be shared with them and guaranteeing their right to be heard at parole hearings. The proposed reforms would also help ensure that offenders are more accountable for their actions and so that their rehabilitation will be more effective.
These measures would also modernize the disciplinary system for inmates.
Further controls for offenders under community supervision are also being introduced.
I urge all members of the House to give their unconditional support for the bill for the sake of offenders who must take more responsibility for a successful transition into the community. I urge all hon. members to support Bill for the sake of crime victims who deserve a greater voice in the correctional system. I urge them to support the legislation before us today for the sake of corrections officers who have a right to a safe work environment.
I urge all hon. members to support this legislation for the sake of all Canadians. The protection of society is our top priority. Canadians deserve to feel safe in their homes and in their communities. Victims deserve to be treated with respect, as do the guards in our institutions. Offenders must be prepared to take more responsibility for their conduct and pay the price if they break the rules.