That the House: (a) condemn the decision of the Parole Board of Canada that led to a young woman’s death by an inmate during day parole in January of this year; and (b) instruct the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security to conduct hearings into this matter, including a review of the changes made by the government in 2017 to the board’s nomination process, with the view to recommend measures to be taken to ensure another tragedy such as this never happens again.
He said: Mr. Speaker, I will share my time with the member for .
Today is an important day for the official opposition, but it is especially important for the family of Marylène Levesque, which is entitled to answers. Marylène Levesque was a 22-year-old woman who was murdered two weeks ago in Quebec City, in my region.
This tragedy really had an impact on me. I simply cannot understand how it came to be that an inmate on parole was allowed to have sex with women. Somehow, someone recommended that this man have sexual relations even though he killed his ex-partner in 2004 and was sentenced to life in prison in 2006.
The first question we should ask ourselves in this case is why the individual was released before his 15-year sentence was up. The second question is about how the parole officer's strategy was implemented and why this officer's report was signed and endorsed by two Parole Board members. The report stated that the paroled inmate had a problem with women. That was clear. The man killed his ex-partner and, for nearly 15 years, demonstrated that he was not capable of engaging in normal relationships with women.
The parole report indicates, and I quote:
During the hearing, your parole officer underlined a strategy that was developed with the goals that would allow you to meet women in order to meet your sexual needs. Your CMT...gave permission for such meetings provided that you were transparent.
That is the issue that prompted us to move the motion we are debating today in the House of Commons. How could two board members agree to and sign a report that allowed a woman-killer, someone with psychological problems in his relationships with women, to meet his sexual needs with women? That implies that he can have dealings with prostitutes and that he can have a relationship with other women. However, these women have no idea who he is or where he comes from. Those members basically let a fox into the henhouse.
The Quebec City region, Quebec and now all of Canada are appalled by this story. Let us not forget that Marylène Levesque paid with her life because an inmate like Eustachio Gallese was given that permission.
These issues are making us question how the Parole Board of Canada could have undergone such a complete transformation in recent years. The changes began from the moment we changed governments in 2015. The contracts of the experienced members already on the board were not renewed. The government decided that members would be politically appointed, and so people were appointed. Surely they were good people. I do not want to accuse those individuals, but the fact remains that people were politically appointed to the Parole Board, to strategic positions, without any support from experienced members. In the workplace, a senior employee is usually always paired with a new one to ensure the transfer of knowledge.
These are fundamental questions, because these people have a tremendous responsibility to ensure public safety. They recommend and sign off on granting parole to murderers, people who have been sentenced to life in prison by a court. They apply for parole, and based on various criteria, their applications are approved. In this particular case, a man who had murdered a woman was allowed to meet with women to satisfy his sexual needs. That is incomprehensible. No one can understand this. Even Robert Pigeon, the chief of the Service de police de la Ville de Québec, said in an interview last weekend that he had never seen anything like this in his whole career and that he could not understand how this could happen.
There is another problem. In 2018, the Auditor General of Canada reported that there were problems with the supervision and accommodation of offenders on parole.
This combination of factors led to an explosive situation. I will say this again, Marylène Levesque paid with her life. Whatever some people may say, Marylène was earning a living as an “escort”. It is currently illegal to purchase sexual services. However, we have seen that a government report proposed enabling him to meet with women and, indirectly, with “escorts”, which is illegal. Canadians have many questions about what happened.
Furthermore, what happened to Marylène Levesque was not an isolated incident. Two years ago, we spent a long time debating the murder of Tori Stafford in this very chamber.
Many will remember this Canadian little girl who was abducted, raped, tortured and murdered by Michael Rafferty and Terri-Lynne McClintic. Her body was found in Ontario. It was an unbelievable tragedy, and the murderers were given life sentences. After just six years, however, we learned that Ms. McClintic had been transferred from a maximum-security penitentiary to the Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge, a minimum-security facility in Saskatchewan. Since Ms. McClintic claimed to be indigenous, she was sent to a healing lodge where there were only cameras and residents can open the door and leave whenever they like. No one in Canada could understand how that could have happened. We raised the matter in the House of Commons, but the Liberals did not want to change anything. After considerable pressure and public outrage, the government finally sent Ms. McClintic back to a regular prison.
Those decisions have prompted many, many questions about the entire decision-making process. That is why we would like a review of how the Parole Board of Canada operates and how, and on what basis, decisions are made.
Quebec's justice minister, Sonia LeBel, summed up the situation surrounding the murder of Marylène Levesque in a single sentence, “Reintegration has to be a consideration in the parole process, but the overriding principle has to be, first and foremost, the safety and security of the public, the safety of our citizens.”
On that, in 2017, eight former PBC members sent a letter to the Prime Minister. The following two paragraphs provide a clear summary of the situation, “We are Parole Board of Canada members who wish to share our serious concerns about the member reappointment process, which does not seem to be transparent.”
Former members also mentioned the following in that letter: "Our primary mandate is to protect the public, and we fear that this mandate is currently in jeopardy.”
This is a letter that was sent in 2017 by eight former Parole Board members who were already flagging the problem. They never received a response from the Prime Minister.
We must not get distracted by the life that Marylène Levesque chose to live. We believe that the important thing to understand is that the parole conditions of the individual in question were unacceptable and the entire process has to be reviewed, including the way Parole Board members are appointed.
Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak to the Conservative motion by my hon. colleague from .
The motion denounces the decision made by the Parole Board in Quebec that cost the life of a 22-year-old woman at the hands of a dangerous repeat offender. It seeks immediate action to review Parole Board nominations that contributed to putting a dangerous offender on the streets, and to have Parliament recommend steps so that this will never happen again.
Given the recent comments by the on finding common ground with all parties to protect Canadians, I would think that he would be supportive of our motion. I imagine every member of the House will condemn the murder of a young woman by a man who beat his previous partner to death with a hammer, and who was released on parole with permission to seek out women in order to manage his sexual needs.
As one columnist noted, it appears the Parole Board's release plan assumed this offender's right to access a woman's body. Any man who cannot control his urges is not fit to be released back into society. Our country is founded on freedom and respect: respect for one another, respect for the law and respect for our values. In this case, the Parole Board's decision is reprehensible.
I will not pretend that this entire problem is the fault of the Liberal government or of any single previous government or decision. The problem we face is a parole and release system that favours offenders over victims. It puts the rights of offenders ahead of the safety of our communities.
This is a result of the current government's inaction, as well as previous governments' actions or inactions, court rulings and court precedents. None of that should prevent the House from challenging the status quo and moving toward a better system of preventing the release of those who are not ready to be law-abiding members of our society.
Let me be clear. We are not talking about anyone who has ever gone to jail. We are not saying that if people have done something wrong, as we all have at some point to different degrees, there is no redemption. I believe in redemption.
For those who have committed crimes, we lay out very clear ideas of what that looks like based on their efforts to reform, to rehabilitate, to seek to address their failings or challenges, to train and educate themselves for a post-release period and to never again be in trouble with the law. However, there have been too many instances like this one. There have been too many recent decisions by Liberal-appointed Parole Board members to release repeat dangerous offenders back into our communities without the adequate protections and information. That lack of accountability and of good, sound decision-making is why the House urgently needs to review and revise how it treats violent offenders.
Dangerous offenders are deemed by the courts. They are held for indeterminate prison sentences because of the malicious repeat offences they have carried out. Dangerous offenders have a pattern of behaviour and persistent aggression that makes them a threat to others.
It is not up to society to accept dangerous offenders. It is up to those dangerous offenders to accept the laws and values of our society in order to be released. However, the Liberal government seems too eager to defend the rights of dangerous offenders and others who are brought before the courts. Dangerous offenders get off too easily under the Liberal government.
Under Bill , in order to address court backlogs, the Liberals reduced sentences and allowed sentences for more violent crimes to be reduced, even to fines. Under Bill , Liberals went after law-abiding firearms owners for the actions of criminals and gangs. In national security laws, they increased red tape, put more effort into watching the public servants who defend Canadians and put less effort into monitoring known radicalized threats, returning ISIS terrorists and foreign threats.
Two years ago, we went through a very similar scenario. Canadians were outraged when Terri-Lynne McClintic, a woman who helped lure, assault, rape and murder eight-year-old Tori Stafford, was transferred to a lower-security healing lodge instead of staying in prison. The indigenous community not far from my riding did not want her there, as she was not indigenous. This raised many questions as to why she was being transferred in the first place. No child predator should ever be sent to a prison where children and families are present.
The Liberals said nothing was wrong, launched a months-long investigation and then determined that they were wrong. They slapped a minor edit on their policies and said everything was fine and would be fine. If the policies were applied properly the first time, that transfer never would have happened.
The offender at the centre of the tragedy is a violent, dangerous offender, whether the law puts that label on him or not. The Parole Board and the minister should have known and should have had the processes in place to prevent this latest tragedy. However, there is no accountability left for the minister or government. Did the Parole Board fail in its duty to Canadians in this circumstance? Yes, it did. Was it likely that former minister Ralph Goodale's decision to appoint fresh and untrained people in the position to make these decisions a factor? It certainly appears that way.
Under the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, the purpose of conditional release is to contribute to the maintenance of a just, peaceful and safe society that will best facilitate the rehabilitation of offenders and their reintegration into the community as law-abiding citizens. The act specifically notes that the paramount consideration by the Parole Board is public safety protection. The release of offenders who are deemed unable to stop themselves from harming others, who pose a risk to women or who have been instructed to break the law by hiring women for sex can in no way live up to the standards set out in law.
Even if there was some justification for a dangerous, violent offender to be released, parole officers are overwhelmed with workloads. According to their union, workloads are insurmountable and there is a real risk to Canadians because they cannot keep tabs on parolees. With the Liberals releasing many dangerous offenders into the community, this issue is being compounded.
For example, Madilyn Harks, formerly known as Matthew Ralf Harks, is a serial rapist who has preyed on young women, with three convictions for sexual assault against girls under the age of eight. She was released into Brampton, one of the largest suburbs in Canada, despite posing a risk to the tens of thousands of children in that community. After public outrage and political pressure on local Liberal MPs, she was removed. Was she a risk to Canadians? Absolutely. Was she placed in a poorly chosen spot? Absolutely. It was only fixed, though, after political and public outrage.
Randall Hopley, a serial child predator, was released into Vancouver despite the Parole Board stating that it was unable to manage his risks to Canadian children. Peter Whitmore, who has many convictions for assaulting young boys, has repeatedly received light sentences for the rape and assault of children. After abducting two boys, tying them up and raping them, he has been locked up again. However, he is now eligible for parole, and it would seem only a matter of time before the Liberals' Parole Board will release him again, if we can believe it. There are many examples like this, more than time allows to mention here.
None of these crimes needed to happen and none of these victims needed to be put at risk and victimized. However, we can all agree that we presume innocence and that the taking away of freedoms under the Criminal Code should not be treated lightly. There are times when it is clearly the best and only course of action. The actions of the guilty are the fault of the guilty. There is no right to cause pain, harm and suffering to others. When the Parole Board sees a threat that is not manageable, there needs to be a mechanism to ensure that Canadians are not put at further risk. We do not need to accept the decisions of murderers, rapists, pedophiles or repeat and serial offenders as a foregone conclusion. However, once people have reached that state, it is incumbent upon them to show and act in a manner that enables their release, not the other way around. It is not beholden on Canadians to accept their intolerable and hateful acts. Criminals are not the victims.
In conclusion, my colleague's motion is justified in light of the many issues facing our communities. Public safety has been put on the back burner time and again by the government and its political manoeuvring. Reforming how we manage dangerous offenders would seem something that all parliamentarians can get behind and can contribute toward protecting Canadians.
However, I suspect that the Liberals will invent yet another excuse why action is not needed right now. They will respond by saying that they have an internal inquiry under way, a response we have heard many times. However, there is an inherent bias to defend the system by those in charge of making those very decisions. Another McClintic-style “sweep it under the rug” decision should not be tolerated.
It is time that other members of Parliament took the role that the minister is too timid to tackle. I encourage my colleagues to vote in favour of a study to strengthen and review the parole system, ensure the appropriate funding is in place and that the safety of Canadians comes ahead of any Liberal political concerns.
Madam Speaker, I want to join all hon. members of the House in expressing my sincerest condolences to the family and friends of Marylène Levesque, who was killed in cold blood by a coward in my Quebec City riding.
We are all deeply saddened and outraged by this tragedy. Such a tragedy would be shocking no matter the circumstances, but this one is even more so because the system that was supposed to protect Marylène Levesque and the public failed. This unspeakable tragedy has shaken the entire country, Quebec and especially my community. We must shed light on the events that led to this tragedy.
An investigation is crucial to understanding what happened, identifying those responsible and making the changes that will ensure this never happens again. Two investigations are already under way. The Quebec City police department is conducting a criminal investigation, and the Correctional Service of Canada, or CSC, and the Parole Board of Canada have convened a board of investigation.
The board was created under section 20 of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act. It is made up of five people, including two co-chairs who do not work for either of the two organizations involved. The government expects this board to complete its work as quickly as possible. Its findings will be made public and will help us understand where failures have occurred, whether at the Parole Board or CSC. These findings will be critical.
Our government also agrees that this matter should be referred to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security for study, as prescribed in today's motion. We believe that these investigations and this study will arrive at the necessary conclusions to ensure that such a tragedy never happens again. The facts will help us achieve that, so I think it is important that we return to the facts.
The Parole Board of Canada did not approve giving the offender in question, Mr. Gallese, permission to visit massage parlours. When the Parole Board learned that correctional officers were allowing that to happen, it immediately issued an order in September 2019 for it to stop. The investigation will determine whether Mr. Gallese's case managers complied with that directive, and if that is not the case, why not. Meanwhile, I can assure the House and all members that the officers in question are no longer supervising any offenders.
One way or another, it seems clear to me that serious mistakes and failures were allowed to occur in this case. It is completely unacceptable and inappropriate for a correctional officer to include visits to massage parlours in an offender's plan, especially knowing Mr. Gallese's criminal history. It is therefore important that a thorough investigation cast light on the circumstances that led to this tragedy.
Furthermore, I note that the Conservative Party and the member for are trying to use this case to prove that there is a systemic problem.
However, violent offences committed by people under community supervision are extremely rare in Canada, and they have become rarer in recent years. Over the past decade, 7,000 to 8,000 people were under some form of community supervision each year, including more than 1,000 offenders on day parole. However, in 2013 and 2014, there were only 17 convictions for violent offences committed by a person on day or full parole.
I would be wary of venturing down this road, but the Conservatives seem to be leading us there anyway. I will therefore remind the members that these data are from the time when Mr. Harper's government had been in power for nearly a decade.
By comparison, in 2017-18, just five violent incidents were committed by people on day or full parole. That does not mean the system did not fail in the case of Marylène Levesque. It does not mean there is no need to fully explore the circumstances that led to this tragedy. However, when we are analyzing the correctional system as a whole, those are the numbers we need to bear in mind.
We should also bear these numbers in mind when talking about appointments to the Parole Board of Canada, whose members are highly qualified. Many things have been said on this subject, but of the 78 current members, 36% have a background in corrections, 28% are from the legal community, 17% are from the public service, 15% are from education, and 10% are former police officers. These members have training in law, psychology, criminology and social work.
Once appointed, the new board members receive rigorous training in their regions and at the Parole Board's headquarters here in Ottawa. They are trained on risk assessment, interview techniques, hearing management and decision writing, and they learn to recognize specific factors that apply to certain types of offenders, such as abusers or persons with mental health issues.
After this initial training, the new board members observe hearings. They are paired with more experienced board members and return for additional training if necessary. It is important to note that only when the regional vice-chairperson is satisfied that the new board members are ready to sit and conduct hearings are they allowed to make decisions. Only when the regional vice-chairperson believes they are ready can they assume their role as board members. The current vice-chairperson of the Quebec region was not only appointed by the Conservative government, but he is also a former Conservative candidate and assistant to former minister Jean-Pierre Blackburn.
It should also be noted that all board members receive annual training on risk assessment so that they can refine their skills and remain in a continuous learning mode.
I would like to once again remind members that no one can sit on the Parole Board without the approval of the regional vice-chairperson, who must be satisfied that each person has acquired the necessary skills and expertise to sit as a member of the Parole Board. The current regional vice-chairperson of Quebec is a former Conservative candidate appointed by the Conservative Party.
In fact, many members appointed by the Harper government had strong ties to the Conservative Party. I am not calling the qualifications or abilities of these individuals into question. I would rather not go there. However, I think it is important to respond when we hear the Conservatives, and the member for in particular, making false accusations about the appointment process and insinuating that there were partisan appointments.
I think it is interesting to note just how many Parole Board members who were appointed under the Conservative government were either party donors, Conservative candidates or Conservative ministerial aides. Nearly one-third of the individuals appointed to the Parole Board of Canada under Stephen Harper's government had very clear ties to the party. This was particularly true in Quebec. At the end of the Conservative reign, six of the nine full-time members were very clearly and very publicly known as Conservative Party supporters.
Yes, it is true that we put an end to the practice of partisan appointments to the Parole Board of Canada. We value expertise, experience and competence. These qualities are crucial because the work of a board member is both highly demanding and highly important.
Setting aside the board members themselves, it is important to remember what criteria they use to evaluate a parole application. They consider the following factors: the reasons and recommendations of the sentencing judge; the nature and gravity of the offence; the offender's degree of responsibility; the information obtained during the trial; and the information obtained from the victims, offenders and correctional authorities. The board members must prioritize public safety, bearing in mind that it would undermine public safety if all offenders were released at the end of their sentence with no support, monitoring or conditions.
It should be noted that the criteria I just listed have not changed in years. They are the same ones that existed under the former government, and they have not changed since we were elected. There has been no change in the criteria, and they are the criteria that guide board members in making decisions about day parole or full parole.
Public safety is the primary objective of the entire correctional and parole system. Public safety is also the primary responsibility of any government. For the past five years, our government has focused on implementing measures to address gender-based violence, which is particularly relevant in this case involving the tragic death of a young woman.
I urge all members to support our strategy to prevent and address gender-based violence. Our strategy would implement preventive measures, support survivors and facilitate knowledge building and sharing. I urge my colleagues to support increasing legal assistance for victims of workplace sexual harassment. I urge them to support increasing funding for judicial education, ethics and conduct in cases of gender-based violence, sexual assault and family violence. I urge them to support funding for preventing teen dating violence, combatting bullying and addressing sexual violence at post-secondary institutions.
I know that every single one of us wants our communities and our society to be safer.
We want women like Marylène Levesque to never again find themselves in vulnerable situations and to have the resources and support they need.
To make that happen, it is essential that we shed light on what happened in this tragic case, where a young woman from our region found herself in an extremely vulnerable situation with a man who should never have been with her.
Our government and I agree that the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security should examine this issue and shed light on it, along with the board of investigation of the Correctional Service of Canada and the Parole Board of Canada.
I think the indictment of the Parole Board of Canada's decision is akin to an indictment of a quasi-judicial body. That is why it is important to tread very carefully.
However, in this case, it is clear that the Correctional Service officer who included a visit to massage parlours in his plan acted completely inappropriately, which is why there must be an inquiry, both by the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security and the board of investigation that our government has tasked with reviewing all the facts and circumstances at every step of the decision in this case. We must draw the necessary conclusions to prevent a tragedy like the one in Quebec City from happening again. We owe it to the victim and her family. It is in the best interests of the country that we arrive at the necessary findings to prevent this from happening again.
Since this is a very sensitive discussion, I would urge all members to exercise restraint in light of the tragedy that has led to this debate.
Madam Speaker, I would like to start by saying that I will be sharing my time with my colleague, the member for . With his expertise in law, he will be able to probe into the specific details of the case that brings us here today.
Today's motion is a particularly sensitive matter, because it is about the death of a young woman. This woman was very close to my own age, and her death could have been prevented.
I am speaking as the new Bloc Québécois critic for public safety and emergency preparedness. I am honoured to speak on behalf of the Bloc Québécois regarding the security and protection of Quebeckers and Canadians alike. Like my colleague from , I find this case totally incomprehensible, especially since it is about violence against a woman, committed by a killer whose record was well known.
I am speaking today to make sure that murders like the one committed under the circumstances that led to the death of Marylène Levesque never happen again. Today, the Bloc Québécois will be supporting the Conservative Party's motion, the first point of which condemns the actions of the Parole Board of Canada. As we know, those actions led to the horrific death of a 22-year-old woman last month. This young woman was murdered by an offender who was out on day parole.
When it comes to justice, one must always be careful about criticizing decisions and policies. It is important to really understand the procedures, the laws and, most of all, the unique features of each case. The reason we are supporting this motion today is that we want to understand why the laws were not applied properly and why the procedures were not followed. The murder of Marylène Levesque could and should have been prevented.
We are not challenging the whole notion of rehabilitation. The purpose of putting an inmate who was behind bars for years on supervised parole is to rehabilitate him. In my opinion, supervised parole does not mean allowing an inmate to obtain services to satisfy his sexual needs. It is both unacceptable and in violation of the Criminal Code. In this particular case, it is clear that parole officers had information that could have prevented this murder.
First of all, the inmate could have been under closer supervision before the murder because he had allegedly violated his parole conditions previously. Second, officials could certainly have forbidden him from contacting Marylène Levesque as he did, because she was a sex worker. That seems like a logical approach to me.
I will repeat that we must be prudent when commenting on legal processes or decisions. Generally, we do not know all the facts. In the case of the murder of Ms. Levesque, the facts indicate a serious failure to comply with regulations and even federal laws governing justice and public safety. It is outrageous and even mind-boggling that the board gave the accused permission to commit a crime, that is to use the services of a prostitute with the complicity of the system that was to ensure the protection of his victim. Quebec's justice and law enforcement authorities have spoken out about this.
Quebec City police chief Robert Pigeon condemned the Parole Board decision that let an offender commit another crime, that is to see prostitutes. I will quote Mr. Pigeon: “How can someone on parole, on day parole, obtain sexual services for consideration? That is a crime under the Criminal Code.”
The chief also raised the issue of how people are chosen to sit on the various committees. We in the Bloc Québécois would also like to know. There have also been many reactions in the National Assembly. The justice minister, Sonia LeBel, like everyone else, is demanding explanations from Canada's , particularly regarding the reasons that led to Mr. Gallese's day parole, given his history of violence against women.
Parti Québécois member Véronique Hivon, true to form in such cases, is asking for a serious analysis of the situation and asking some vital questions. Is it a lack of training, a lack of information or a lack of analytical tools? Was it the system that failed? Personally, I think so. The system has failed. It failed Marylène Levesque, and it failed all of us.
The Auditor General of Canada produced a report in 2018, in which he stated that, because of a lack of resources, the Correctional Service of Canada could not ensure inmates' successful transition from custody to day parole, increasing the risk of reoffending.
Here we have proof that the Correctional Service of Canada is not adequately managing offenders under supervision in the community. It is completely unacceptable.
If we want our rehabilitation programs to work properly, they need to be appropriately resourced. The lack of resources had already been raised by the Auditor General. Today, the government is forced to answer the questions we are all asking ourselves, namely, what it has or has not done to fix the problem. What is most deplorable is that it took the murder of a 22-year-old woman to raise these questions.
The Bloc Québécois will also support this motion because it calls on the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security to conduct hearings into this matter.
The may well have requested an internal investigation, but this means that it will be conducted by Correctional Service Canada and the Parole Board of Canada, the two agencies involved in this case. In my opinion, this kind of internal justice is wrong-headed, hence the need for an external investigation. Jean-Claude Boyer, a former member of the Parole Board of Canada, also believes that the investigation should be conducted externally, and independently. I would like to reiterate that this is entirely reasonable and necessary.
The Bloc Québécois will also support this motion because it calls for a review of the changes to the Parole Board of Canada nomination process made by the Liberals in 2017.
According to a survey conducted by the Parole Board in May 2019, 70% of parole officers said that they were not able to do their work properly or to properly protect the public. We are talking here about the safety of people we know, people in all of the regions of Quebec and Canada. In November 2018, the Auditor General of Canada came to a similar conclusion regarding offenders supervised in the community. How is it that nothing has been done since 2018?
Former Parole Board member Dave Blackburn expressed concerns about the new member appointment process established in 2017. He said, and I quote: “That year, the...government changed the member renewal process. Members who had already been appointed to the Parole Board had to go through the same appointment process as new candidates.”
What we understand from that is that, as a result of the new process, most experienced members did not have their mandates renewed. We can already see a number of problems there.
In closing, the Bloc Québécois will support this motion so that we can get to the bottom of the events that led to this murder, which, I repeat, could have and should have been avoided.
As a woman, as a Quebecker and as the Bloc Québécois critic for public safety and emergency preparedness, I want to offer my sincere condolences to Marylène Levesque's family. I would also like to tell them that we will do everything in our power to get to the bottom of what happened in order to honour Marylène's memory and ensure the safety of women in Quebec and Canada.
The goal is obviously to implement real measures to prevent any other such tragedies from happening in the future. The Bloc Québécois wants people to have confidence in their justice system, but that confidence has been seriously undermined.
Madam Speaker, I will not reiterate what others have said, but I can confirm that Bloc Québécois members are shocked by these events.
This was not an isolated incident for this individual. In 1988, he assaulted the mother of his children, Joanne Lafrance. In 2004, he killed his partner, Chantal Deschênes. There is a well-established history of such behaviour. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for 15 years. In the fall of 2019, he was let out on day parole. According to his parole officer, he was granted day parole so he could meet women to satisfy his sexual needs.
What kind of society lets a notorious repeat sexual offender out on parole so he can meet his sexual needs? Apparently that is a social reintegration strategy. I can hardly believe it. That kind of approach just does not compute.
Clearly, the motion before us is an important one. The process needs to be reviewed. We need to start by condemning the Parole Board's decision. I think that goes without saying; no need to belabour the point. Next, we have to hold hearings to find out if any changes need to be made.
I would point out that the union president and the president of the Association des services de réhabilitation sociale du Québec say that this is an unusual decision. They must not have seen this very often to describe it as unusual. The Parole Board of Canada itself is asking for a review of the analysis grid. I think we need to take this seriously. As a society, we cannot accept situations like this.
We offer our condolences to the victim's family and to the families of all the other victims. However, at some point we have to assume our responsibilities. I think it is time to review this process.
If Parole Board of Canada board members need more training then let's provide that training. If we need to appoint new members, then let's do that. If we need to change the selection criteria for members of the Parole Board of Canada, then let's do that. We have to start with an inquiry to determine what happened and ensure that it does not happen again because this situation is unacceptable.
For all these reasons and those raised by my colleague from , the Bloc Québécois will vote in favour of this motion and offers its deepest condolences to the families of this individual's victims.
Madam Speaker, as I begin, I would like to beg the indulgence of the House for one moment to mention the tragic loss of life in my riding Friday night in the community of Sooke, where flooding appears to have taken the lives of Cory Mills, Eric Blackmore and A.J. Jensen. We will learn more about the details of this incident as time goes on, but I believe we also need to look into the larger context of climate change, more severe storms, clear-cut logging and all of these things contributing to more severe flooding in my riding. We want to see if there was a connection to that loss of life.
Many volunteers came out to search when these young men went missing on Friday night, which is a tribute to the strength of volunteerism in the community of Sooke, and I thank all of those volunteers who helped in the search.
Turning to the question before us this morning, I will begin by expressing my condolences to the family and friends of Marylène Levesque for this loss, which is a loss not only to them but to all Canadians.
The NDP will be supporting the motion put forward by the Conservatives today, because obviously we need an investigation as to how something like this could happen in Canada. This tragic incident raises questions about the specific decisions of the Parole Board and parole officers in this case. These are important questions, because our parole system, by and large, serves the public well and helps to guarantee public safety in this country. However, when something clearly goes so far off the rails as to result in a tragic incident such as this, we have to have answers about what happened in our system.
How could this have been allowed to happen when the perpetrator had a previous conviction for the murder of his wife and was under supervision? How in the world did we get to a situation of another young woman losing her life at the hands of the same person for whom Canadians had taken responsibility, through our parole system, and who had been guaranteed to the public would be safe from committing further violence and further actions? These are indeed important questions.
However, the motion perhaps does not go far enough in that it does not really tackle those larger questions about the role of gender-based violence in Canadian society, about how we value women's lives and how we sometimes do not value women's lives to the extent that we should. In particular, when it comes to incidents of intimate partner violence, somehow this is seen as a lesser form of violence and the perpetrator of violence on their partner is somehow seen as less of a threat to Canadian society as a whole than are other violent criminals. This simply makes no sense to me, but it is clearly a factor involved in this case.
We also have to ask ourselves how much we value all women's lives, including the lives of sex workers.
The Parole Board and the parole officers clearly played a role in perpetuating these problematic attitudes about women and about violence toward women in our society, so yes, I support this motion, because we need to look closely at who is being appointed to the Parole Board.
Do we have a sufficient number of women on the Parole Board to help evaluate risk and set policies to evaluate risk? Are those people being appointed to parole boards for the right reasons? The Conservatives have raised this question. Parole Board appointments should not be a question of patronage, but a question of appointing people who represent the community and the community's values, people who can help set the very important policies that prevent innocent lives from being lost.
We also need to look at the question of the training that we provide to Parole Board members. Are we making sure that they are adequately trained in gender-based violence? Are we making sure that they are adequately trained in the rights and responsibilities that they have as Parole Board members and will not perpetuate these attitudes that sometimes value certain women's lives less than other lives in our society?
Let me talk a little more about the specifics of this incident.
There is the question we need to ask about how risk was evaluated. I will take a moment to read what was said by a UBC law professor, Isabel Grant, who I think raises some very important questions. She said:
I think that [the case] really shows the degree to which we do privilege male entitlement to women's bodies over the safety of women. I think it reflects, too, this idea that men who killed their girlfriends or wives or intimate partners don't present as much of a threat to the public as other men.
Professor Grant went on to say, “And I think that’s problematic, and it also shows how we see the safety of women, particularly the most marginalized women, and how little priority we give it,” meaning how little priority we give their safety.
We need to have this inquiry to ask those questions about risk evaluation and, in particular, how we evaluate the risk of men who have perpetrated violence on women in the past.
Then there is this whole concept that seems to have invaded this case, where the perpetrator had sexual needs that needed to be satisfied. I cannot imagine what this discussion is doing in a question of parole and risk. There is no right of men to have their sexual needs satisfied by women. No such thing exists. I cannot imagine how this became a subject of discussion on a perpetrator about whom the Parole Board had already said was not ready for relationships with women. However, it was suggesting that this person should visit sex workers for sex, as if this were not some kind of a relationship with a woman, for which he would obviously and clearly also not be ready. We have to look at specific cases and ask those tough questions of what attitudes lie behind these kinds of decisions.
Then there is the very problematic question to ask parole officers and parole boards. Since, under our current law, seeking sexual services from sex workers and paying for those services is illegal, are we really talking about a parole system that has suggested a perpetrator on parole should commit an illegal act? By its nature, the commission of that illegal act, should have cancelled his parole and returned him to custody. Are we really talking about the situation where somebody was, from within the system, advising a perpetrator to commit an illegal act? I would like an answer to that. I think all Canadians would like an answer to that very specific question.
That is why the NDP will support the Conservative motion. On those narrow questions, we have some very important answers to get and when we get those answers, we have to look very seriously at changes in policies that allowed these kinds of things to happen.
When we come to the broader context, we have to ask ourselves about a corrections system that had a perpetrator in custody for 15 years and failed to rehabilitate him. We all know there are challenges in our corrections system with lack of resources. We all know there are challenges raised by a very large number of people in our corrections system about offenders who have mental health and addiction problems. These are real challenges that our system has to face.
However, I would submit there are some cases where rehabilitation will fail and when that rehabilitation fails, we have a responsibility in our corrections system to keep the person in custody or to carefully supervise the individual's release. That broader question is raised again about how successful we are at rehabilitation and in the cases of violence against women especially, how seriously do we take the failure to rehabilitate men.
In the broader context of the safety of sex workers, there is what I call a very interesting twist, and I do not really like the tone of that word, in this case. Clearly the perpetrator had visited this massage parlour before, which we know from many reports. He had been banned because of his violence toward the women who worked in that parlour. If this were a normal place of work at which violence occurred, it would have been reported to the police and would have resulted in the revocation of his parole. However, under the current legislation, a massage parlour is illegal. Therefore, it is illegal to provide a safe place for sex work to take place. We therefore have the cruel irony that the massage parlour could not report this person to the police without the risk of shutting down the safe place that had been established for sex work to take place.
Therefore, now we are into the broader question of our laws on sex work in Canada. Members in the House will know, as I have spoken on this many times, that I have worked with sex workers in my riding on a harm reduction strategy, not a judgment strategy, and a rights-based strategy, not a rescue-based strategy. It is very important that we look at this case as an example of what is wrong with our current restrictive laws on sex work. Many people say that we only criminalize the johns. That is not actually true. This is not what happened in the legislation.
We criminalize all kinds of things around sex work that makes sex work more dangerous. We criminalize the safe places for it to take place, such as brothels or massage parlours. Those really are safe places for women to perform sex work. We criminalize hiring security to provide safety, as that would be under the provision that someone is somehow profiting from sex work while being hired to provide security.
I could go on with a list of things that we criminalize all the way around sex work. Each and every one of those provisions makes sex work more dangerous for the women involved.
I have the privilege of having the PEERS sex worker drop-in centre in my riding. Also, when I was on council, it was in my municipality. I learned from meeting with sex workers in my riding and from the staff at the PEERS centre what sex workers' organizations can do when they are empowered to provide safety to their members.
Rather than criminalizing sex work, I would like to see us take a harm reduction strategy that empowers sex worker organizations. What do I mean by that? It is more than just a nice phrase. It means, who provides “bad date lists”, as they are called? Who keeps track of the men who are violent toward sex workers? Sex worker organizations have that information. One of the functions they perform in every local venue is to make women who are involved in sex work aware of those men who are violent and dangerous. We need to support sex workers in providing the service. Unfortunately, we cannot involve the police in that at this time, because of the criminalization of all these pieces around sex work.
The PEERS drop-in centre in my riding provides many social services for women in the sex trade who are faced with housing and child care crises and who face all the same challenges that other workers face in our society. Once again, the key to all those services is not judgment about why women are in sex work, not judgment about whether sex work is a good or a bad thing, but how we can make lives better and safer for those who are already involved in sex work.
We have a charity based in Victoria called “HeroWork”. HeroWork provides volunteers to help renovate the premises of community social service organizations. Most members of Parliament will be quite aware that one of the problems our charities have is that their infrastructure is quite old and decrepit. Their workplaces are not very good places to work. Many of them are mould infested and have other real health challenges.
HeroWork selected as one of its projects the renovation of the PEERS drop-in centre. It mobilized literally hundreds of volunteers around the community to go in and makeover the drop-in centre and to make it a more welcoming and supportive place, including creating a community kitchen so it could provide meals, showers and other services to those who were involved in sex work in my community.
The interesting thing we found was that the project of renovating the drop-in centre brought volunteers from all over the community, who may not have otherwise gotten to know sex workers. This played a large role in changing their attitudes toward what happens in sex work in my community.
In this debate, it is important that we extend our thinking to whether we have taken the right approach to harm reduction in sex work and how that connects directly to the incident we have in front of us, which caused the loss of life. Many hundreds of sex workers have lost their lives in the country.
It beggars belief that those involved in our parole and corrections system could think that sending a person, who has a record of violence with women, to the most vulnerable women in our society and not expect a bad and tragic outcome, like the one that occurred in Quebec City.
First, we need to look at the specific decisions that were taken by the Parole Board in its review of the actions of the parole officer. Again, after teaching criminal justice for 20 years and having a federal prison in my riding, I know that most of the time this system does very good work on behalf of all Canadians. Let us look at the specific decision and figure out what went wrong.
Second, I am supporting the motion, but I would like to see us expand the terms of reference, so we think about those larger issues in our society of gender-based violence, intimate partner violence and the safety of sex workers. When we have taken a look at those issues, then we will have a responsibility to act, as legislators in the House, to make this a better and safer Canada for all women, including sex workers.
Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the iconic member for .
This is my first time rising in debate in the 43rd Parliament, so I would like to take a couple of moments to thank the residents of Edmonton West for honouring me with re-election. I am very proud to say that, according to the Library of Parliament, last election we received the most votes ever cast in a federal or provincial election within the city of Edmonton going back to Confederation. I want to thank the constituents of Edmonton West for putting their faith in me.
One of the issues we have in Alberta right now is the alienation caused by the government and also the fact that Liberals will not recognize or give proper representation to Alberta. Even though the Liberal in my riding, and I have to congratulate Kerrie Johnston who ran a fantastic campaign, received barely 20%, she actually received more votes than any single Liberal MP from Prince Edward Island. Here we have a Liberal who received very few votes in Alberta but who would have been elected in any one of the ridings in P.E.I. I hope along those lines we will address electorate representation or the lack thereof in Alberta in the coming years.
I want to thank my family, of course, for helping me out. I would not be here without them. My oldest son, Jensen, door knocked with me and helped out in Edmonton Centre, Edmonton Strathcona and Edmonton Mill Woods as well. My younger son, Parker, door knocked with me throughout the summer and helped out Edmonton Centre and also door knocked in Edmonton Strathcona. We have heard that cats have nine lives, but politicians who do not thank their spouses only have one life, so I am going to hang onto that and thank my wife, Sasha, for her support. I could not do anything, even get dressed, without her, so I thank her for all her support and love over the years.
Victory has a thousand fathers and defeat has one orphan, so I want to thank some of the fathers who helped me out. There are too many to mention, but I want to highlight my friend, Tom, and of course, Bob and his wife, Bev, whose car I ran into during the election. Bev I called Barb for all these years by mistake. Kids from Parkland Immanuel Christian School, about 20 of them, came out and door knocked. I thank Frank and Margaret as well. These are just some of the people who helped me get here again.
We knocked on over 50,000 doors from the end of June right up to election day. We heard loud and clear from my constituents that they want us to work at getting our pipelines built, getting our energy workers back to work and making Alberta and the country strong again. I will continue to do that. Again, I thank the people of Edmonton West.
We are here to discuss the opposition motion regarding the Parole Board. First, I want to quickly go over the Gallese case and look at the history of what happened. Gallese, of course, was the gentleman who was a murderer and was allowed out to kill again by the Parole Board. In 1997, this gentleman was convicted of violence against a spouse, so this was not the first time. In 2004, he was convicted of killing his wife, first beating her with a hammer before stabbing her repeatedly. This is not a simple act of perhaps second-degree murder that could have been by accident. This man beat her with a hammer and then repeatedly stabbed her to death.
He was sentenced to 15 years with no parole. He was deemed a high risk to recommit violence against women. In 1997, he was convicted of beating a spouse, murdering a spouse and deemed a high risk to recommit. Somehow, a few years in, under the Liberal government, the risk assessment was reduced. The risk that he was going to repeat was reduced.
I have to ask why the Liberals are fighting our look into the circumstances that would allow this to happen. He was out on day parole and in September 2019 in his twice a year annual Parole Board review, the Parole Board heard that he had been visiting prostitutes in violation of his parole. The Parole Board was aware. Visiting prostitutes, according to the law, demonstrates elevated risk. He should have been thrown back in jail when the Parole Board found out.
Doing the right thing and putting him back in jail would have saved a life. Instead, the Parole Board merely said to him not to do it again. That was it. The Parole Board let him go and told him not to do it again. Two months later, he murdered Marylène Levesque, a young woman who died because of the Parole Board's incompetence.
I have to ask why the government is fighting this motion to look into the circumstances and the Parole Board's actions. We need to ensure this does not happen again. I do not blame the Liberal MPs for this happening, but the Parole Board needs a review.
What is stopping Parliament from reviewing the Parole Board process that led directly to this murder? If a man is unable to form a violence-free relationship with a woman, why in the world would it be okay for him to go out and have a relationship with a prostitute? Why do we value that lady's life less than someone else's life? Why is it okay to put the sexual needs of a violent criminal ahead of innocent women?
Fourteen of the Liberal-appointed Parole Board members have less than three years' experience. Why are the patronage appointments more important than the safety of Canadians, the safety of women, the safety of marginalized women in the sex trade?
I am sure the Liberals just want a simple, quiet, internal review to cover up their patronage errors. Perhaps they want to throw the parole officer under the bus and put all the blame on that officer. Let us be clear that the Parole Board knew about this gentleman visiting prostitutes, the elevated risk and did nothing. Liberals want to ignore the problems existing within the Parole Board system.
My riding has the largest women's prison in western Canada, the Edmonton Institution for Women. I meet with the corrections officers and parole officers very often. We deal with problems that have not been addressed, safety with drug injections inside the prison and the segregation policy.
I also hear about the problems that parole officers and program officers are struggling with the caseload. They are pressured to get offenders out of the prison and onto the streets. The program to monitor and maintain progress with offenders has been weakened. There is weakened oversight to hold prisoners accountable. There is a push to get these offenders into halfway houses. The halfway houses have their uses, but we have to remember oversight and supervision of these prisoners in halfway houses is not 24 hours a day. It is severely reduced.
No speech I make in this House would ever occur without me referring to the departmental plan. I notice in the departmental plan for public safety under correctional services, over the next four years the government is planning to cut 4% of funding to the Parole Board.
Community supervision for the parole officers, without taking into account inflation, raises and cost increases, is soon to be cut by $1 million. The workers are saying there is too much of a workload and the Liberals are still cutting it a further $1 million.
Overall, corrections services are getting a 1% cut over a five-year period from the year the Liberals took over. If we read the departmental report, it is very fitting that the head of the Parole Board mentions in a report the dignity of offenders and better serving offender groups, but she mentions victims just once.
As I go further into the departmental plan, there is another great one. The plan mentions the percentage of offenders on parole who are not convicted of an offence prior to their supervision period ending. I would think it would be 100%. The Liberals' goal is 4%, which is an increase in the amount of reoffending over the last four years.
The plan also mentions the percentage of offenders on parole who are not convicted of a violent offence during their supervision period. I would think 100% would be their goal, but it is not. The Liberals have shown a lower goal over the coming years of the number of people who are reoffending for violent crimes than past years.
It is very clear the Liberal program and the Parole Board need to be reviewed. The Parole Board needs to have an external and public review, and the review has to be transparent. An internal review the Liberals are pushing for will serve no one.
Innocent women have to be protected. Canadians have to be protected. The government should do the right thing and vote with the opposition on this motion.
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to stand today and speak to such an important matter. Today's motion is extremely important. It is calling for justice for Marylène Levesque.
I will be asking for justice for many victims of crime and violence as it pertains to my riding of Cariboo—Prince George. If we cannot be the voice for victims of violence and crime, who will be? In many cases their voices are silenced, as in the case of Marylène Levesque.
I have stood in this House time and again over the last five years and talked about cases such as Canada's youngest serial killer, Cody Legebokoff, who heinously murdered four young women in my riding: Jill Stuchenko, Cynthia Maas, Loren Leslie and Natasha Montgomery. Sadly, in the previous Parliament we would see the minister stand up and merely pay lip service.
I have been listening to this debate today and I am heartened to hear words about doing a full investigation into the incident of the heinous murder of Marylène Levesque.
Over the last five years, the previous minister could not even say the word “murder”. It was a bad practice. How far have we fallen when discussing murder becomes a bad practice?
We have seen a convicted terrorist, one who waged war against Canadians and American soldiers, shamefully paid $10 million.
We have seen a man who murdered an off-duty police officer in Nova Scotia claim he suffered from PTSD from committing that murder. He was then catapulted to the front of the line to receive services before our first responders, military members and veterans, with little action from our colleagues across the way.
Unfortunately, my riding of Cariboo—Prince George is not immune to this inaction. As I mentioned, Cody Legebokoff, who is Canada's youngest serial killer, brutally murdered four young women in 2009 and 2010. I will say their names again, because their names should be repeated time and again. They are Natasha Montgomery, Jill Stuchenko, Cynthia Maas and, Mr. Legebokoff's final victim, Loren Leslie, who was just 15.
He was convicted on all four counts of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison with no parole for 25 years. However, what we found out early last year was that he was transferred from a maximum-security prison to a medium-security prison just up the road from here. The Correctional Service of Canada's own words were that the transfer and redesignation of some of our most serious criminals is not an exact science.
The case we have before us today is about Marylène Levesque, the Parole Board and the instructions the parole officer gave her murderer. That is what leads us to the cause of our concern with Cody Legebokoff being transferred from a maximum-security to a medium-security prison. The families are wondering what is next. Will Cody Legebokoff be walking the streets?
B.C. Supreme Court Justice Glen Parrett decided that, given the sexual assaults committed as part of the murders and Legebokoff's apparent degradation of the victims' bodies, he was adding him to the national sex offender registry. In his decision to add Legebokoff to the national sex offender registry, Justice Parrett said that Legebokoff “lacks any shred of empathy or remorse” and “he should never be allowed to walk among us again.”
The remains of one of his victims, Natasha Montgomery, have never been found. Mr. Legebokoff still continues to negotiate and uses that as a bargaining chip with the families in an effort to get favourable treatment while in prison.
Brendan Fitzpatrick was the RCMP E Division major crime section superintendent in charge of operations during Mr. Legebokoff’s murder spree.
Mr. Fitzpatrick called it “absolutely unconscionable” that Cody Legebokoff was transferred from a maximum-security prison to medium-security prison.
He wrote to me early last year, and in his letter to me he said, “On behalf of all of Mr. Legebokoff’s victims, their surviving families and the investigators whose blood sweat and tears went into the arrest and conviction of this individual, I reach out to you to bring this issue to the public’s attention and demand answers of the Public Safety portfolio why this convicted killer is being given this generous benefit.”
We challenged the minister of the day to please look into this. Again, Mr. Speaker, I stand before you and I challenge the minister of this day to look into this case, just as he has pledged to look into Marylène Levesque's case.
The government needs to account for why the victims' families were not consulted and why the police had no input into this placement. It needs to account for why the youngest serial murderer in Canadian history is provided the luxury of a new, less secure environment.
Another case that is just as recent is that of Fribjon Bjornson. Fribjon Bjornson was a young man who had just come in from a logging camp, cashed his cheque, went to party with some of his friends, as many do on Friday evenings and weekends, and ended up being murdered. He was decapitated. One of his murderers was James David Junior Charlie, and his first-degree murder conviction was recently overturned by B.C.'s highest court, citing an error by the trial judge.
Mrs. Bjornson is a friend of ours. She told me the whole family is devastated. Once again, victims' families are being victimized over and over again throughout the process. Where are the voices for the victims? Who is standing up for the victims?
Mrs. Bjornson told me that they knew there would be an appeal as there always is unless a plea deal is given. That is one of the reasons they agreed when a plea deal was offered to Wesley Duncan and Jesse Bird. They pleaded guilty to second-degree murder after hearing what happened to Frib during James Charlie's trial. Mrs. Bjornson was certain they would have been found guilty of first-degree murder.
She went on to say that as parents, waiting six years to find out the story is cruel and unusual punishment. Now eight years later, and this is just this past fall, they are faced with the dilemma of having to go through the whole trial again.
This government, and any government, needs to do more for victims and their families. Sadly, we just continue to get lip service.
We saw this in the case of young Tori Stafford when her murderer was given access to a healing lodge. I will go back and say this again: Healing lodges were not on trial there. It is the fact that a convicted murderer, an offender of one of society's most heinous crimes, essentially was given a free pass to come and go as she pleased in this type of institution.
I started off by saying that I am heartened to hear some of the language from across the way, in terms of the parliamentary secretary and the minister saying that they are going to investigate this to its fullest extent. I would offer that the two cases I brought up from Prince George also deserve a new set of eyes on their cases and a renewed investigation. I would implore our colleagues across the way to do more than just lip service. I hope that their words are true.
Sadly, what we have seen over the course of the previous four years and up to this point has really just been lip service. The victims and their families deserve better. We can always do better. If we lead with our hearts and put ourselves in the place of the victims' families, the first responders and those who do the investigations, we will always lead by putting our best foot forward.
I would challenge our colleagues across the way to do that. I know my colleagues in opposition are here to help wherever we can.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for .
I will start today by acknowledging that we are meeting on the traditional territory of the Algonquin people.
I will take this opportunity to join my colleagues in sharing my sympathy with the family and friends of Marylène Levesque. The loss of her life was a senseless tragedy that did not need to happen. I am pleased that a thorough investigation has been initiated and that it includes the participation of two external advisers. The investigation and review that is currently taking place will determine the circumstances that preceded this awful situation. The results will be made public so that we can all learn from this horrendous incident and make the necessary changes to ensure that it does not happen again.
The loss of Marylène Levesque has brought forward questions about the safety of the female body that we often ask on this side of the House. We know that many Canadians face violence every day because of their sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression or perceived gender. To get an idea of how large this problem really is, we funded a survey of safety in public and private spaces through the gender-based violence strategy. The findings were upsetting. Women were found to be nearly four times more likely to have experienced unwanted sexual behaviour in public. Thirty per cent of women were sexually assaulted at least once since the age of 15 and 29% of women experienced inappropriate sexual behaviour in the workplace. We see this time and time again. We know that young women, students, bisexual and lesbian women, indigenous women and women with a disability are at an increased risk.
There is a stark contrast between our approach to addressing gender-based violence and that of my colleagues who introduced this motion. They have pushed forward a tough-on-crime agenda around sex work, hoping that it would diminish demand and eradicate prostitution, though many critics have warned and continue to tell us that in reality it makes the work more dangerous and drives it further underground.
Recently reported by Molly Hayes in The Globe and Mail, Sandra Wesley, executive director of Stella, a Montreal-based sex work organization, said, “'We know firsthand how frequently men are violent toward sex workers, and criminalization prevents us from doing anything about it',” she said. 'If we report something with the police, the immediate outcome tends to be that our workplaces get shut down. Our co-workers get arrested, our clients get arrested, we lose our income.'” Jenny Duffy, board chair of Maggie's Toronto Sex Workers Action Project, said in an email on Thursday that she was pleased that this case will be investigated, but added that it will not keep sex workers safe.
My colleague, the member for , spoke eloquently on sex work and the need for Parliament to do more on this issue to keep these women safe. I thank him for his wise words.
We need to ensure that our laws meet their objectives and promote safety and security that is consistent with our rights and freedoms. Parliament is in the process of establishing a committee that can review this matter. This will be a complex and hard conversation to have, but while we discuss it, we have to remember Marylène Levesque and the hundreds of sex workers who have lost their lives. Let us be clear that there is a distinction between sex work and human trafficking.
Under the Harper Conservative government, important programs available to parole officers, like a specialized family violence program and access to a world-renowned sex researcher, were cut. The men and women who work as parole officers do extraordinary work in our community to ensure our public safety. I have met many of them who do their utmost with the tools that they have to rehabilitate and reintegrate offenders. The Harper Conservatives slashed the community correction liaison officer that paired police with parole officers to support their work in the community.
These were not the only cuts made by the Harper government. When the members opposite were in government, they shut down 12 of 16 Status of Women Canada regional offices and barred any funding from women's groups that were involved in advocacy. Their recent platform was eerily quiet about policy and programs to help survivors, even though they understand that successful policy has to be more than just tougher laws. We need wraparound, culturally sensitive programming that empowers survivors to regain self-confidence and control over their lives. The government is laying the foundation to provide just that.
At the end of the day, gender-based violence must not be tolerated in Canada. I am proud that our government has launched the first federal strategy to prevent gender-based violence. Our strategy includes prevention programs, support for survivors and their families, and the promotion of responsible legal and justice systems.
This strategy includes over $200 million in new investments, including for prevention in teen and youth dating violence, support for victims, and innovative interventions and campaigns to raise awareness of survivors' rights and sexual assault myths. Our strategy does this while also improving capacity to respond in a culturally safe manner. As well, we have passed legislation that clarified and strengthened the law on sexual assault to make it fairer and more compassionate toward survivors of sexual violence.
Importantly, we have extended firearms background checks to consider an applicant's entire life and not just the previous five years. I am particularly proud to have worked on this legislation and have added an amendment that ensures that gender-based violence must be considered during the firearms licence application process. This will start to ensure that abusive partners do not have firearms. There was a study done in Atlantic Canada that showed that 70% of those surveyed were less likely to come forward to report intimate partner violence when there was a firearm in the home. The is working to expand on this concept further.
Both of these important steps forward were voted against by my colleagues on the other side of the aisle who brought forward today's motion.
On this side of the House, we are making gains in our criminal justice system so that it is fairer and more compassionate to the survivors of sexual assault, and I will list a few.
We have clarified consent provisions, expanding rape shield provisions and establishing procedures for third party record applications. We amended the Criminal Code to prohibit discrimination based on gender identity and making violence motivated by gender identity a hate crime. We listened to the concerns of survivors at a recent knowledge exchange. This event allowed survivors' voices to be heard alongside criminology and legal experts, community organizations and law enforcement. Their voices were heard, and we have learned from their experience with the justice system.
However, the work is not done. We must do more to prevent gender-based violence. The continues to work tirelessly with the to ensure that anyone facing gender-based violence has reliable and timely access to protection and services.
We are all saddened to learn of the loss of Marylène Levesque. We need to make changes to our laws and protocols to make Canada a safer place for all Canadians, including sex workers like her. I believe that real solutions are being brought forward by our government, while the other side lacks any policy or substance. I eagerly anticipate the findings of the investigation to ensure that the lessons learned are used to make better laws to keep all women safe.
Mr. Speaker, the system that was designed to protect the public clearly failed in this situation.
First, I would like to extend my condolences to Marylène Levesque's family and friends. Her tragic death obviously should never have happened and it has no doubt caused a great deal of discomfort to them and to Canadians, as we hear a little more information each day about what took place. I believe that anyone who reflects on what took place would want to see some sort of justice on the issue.
To that end, this tragic death cannot and will not go unaccounted for as far as ensuring there is justice. As has been pointed out, a couple of investigations will be taking place: the criminal investigation and the broader internal investigation.
I have been listening to the debate, and four Conservatives have spoken on the issue. Three of them made reference to Tori Stafford. I raise this because I wonder why the Conservatives, at times, tend to put the politics of an issue ahead of what is really important.
I was here when the Conservatives brought up the Tori Stafford incident when Terri-Lynne McClintic was transferred to a healing lodge. The Conservative Party was quite upset over that. I remember listening to more than one member of Parliament give an incredible visual description of what had happened to Tori Stafford. They tried to give the impression that it was the Government of Canada's fault, as if this government had ultimately allowed for the healing lodge placement of Ms. McClintic. I remind Conservatives that as we got more into the debate, we found out that it was actually Stephen Harper's regime that had her transferred to a medium-security facility, which made her eligible to be brought over to a healing lodge. We also found out that under Harper's regime, other child murderers were put into other medium-security facilities.
Why do I bring that up? Another Conservative speaker has said that our system is broken. Now this tragic death is being brought up, and again the Conservatives seem to be more concerned about trying to blame the Government of Canada, as if we are the ones to blame for the tragic death.
I believe that all members, no matter their political party, understand exactly what has taken place. All of us are offended that an individual on parole committed the outrageous offence of murder. Ms. Levesque is the victim here. That is why I started off by extending my condolences to her family and friends, as we all try to get a better understanding of the situation. I think the response to date by the government has been very respectful of all sides of the issues that have come before us.
Having this internal review is a good starting point. It is a way for us as legislators to get a better understanding of not only what took place to lead to this particular individual's release, but some of the commentary that was being provided by the case manager with respect to this particular file. I see that as a good, positive step forward.
When I think of the comments I have heard about the appointment process, I have no reservations about doing a comparison. Opposition members have said that it is the government that makes appointments to the Parole Board. They are trying to imply that this is what ultimately led to this tragic incident. Again, I do not believe that for a moment.
In fact, as the pointed out, the regional vice-chair is a Stephen Harper appointment. Any new board member that will be hearing cases has to be approved by that vice-chair. There is an extensive process of training that takes place.
For the Conservatives to imply that somehow this government has either direct or indirect culpability in what has taken place is just wrong. I have heard it from more than one member opposite. They have had four speakers on this issue, and at least three of them have tried to imply that.
If they are genuine in what they are trying to raise today and it is a legitimate concern, then they do not need to go along that line. Yes, there are some important facts that need to be discussed and investigated, but I would suggest that the appointment process today is far superior to what it was under the former Conservative government. All one would need to do is take a look at that.
I am really intrigued by how this debate has been broadened, and I think there is a great deal of merit to that. Years ago, I brought up the issue of violence against women and girls, in particular in our indigenous communities, and called for a public inquiry. I was very happy to see the government act on this initiative. I was also very happy when the former public safety minister brought in legislation to allow victims of rape, for example, to get recordings of parole hearings and be present during them.
I wanted to move what hopefully the official opposition will see as a friendly amendment. Considering that the Parole Board of Canada explicitly opposed permitting the offender to visit a massage parlour, we seek to amend part (a) of the motion.
I therefore move, seconded by the hon. member for , that the motion be amended by replacing the words “condemn the decision of the Parole Board of Canada that led to a young woman’s death by an inmate during day parole in January of this year” with “condemn the management of this offender, which may have contributed to the murder of a young woman.”
Mrs. Cheryl Gallant: Why do you hate women?
Mr. Speaker, I would like to inform you that I will be sharing my time with the member for .
It is with heavy hearts that we come here to speak today. At the beginning of January, Marylène Levesque was an innocent young woman alive in Canada. A few weeks later, on January 22, Marylène was brutally murdered by a convicted murderer out on parole.
To say that this should never have happened is a significant understatement. Marylène should be alive today. She should never have met with Eustachio Gallese. Her death is tragic and utterly senseless. It is one more example of the preventable violence that women and girls face across Canada by men who view them as nothing more than objects and commodities to be bought and sold. Canadians are outraged. They have every right to be. They want answers.
The told the House that a full investigation would take place and would be conducted by the commissioner of the Correctional Service of Canada and the chair of the Parole Board of Canada. It is an investigation that will try to answer why this senseless murder took place, and how to prevent others.
We already know the Parole Board of Canada allowed a man with a history of domestic violence against women out on day parole. He had already brutally murdered his own wife in 2004. Prior to that, he committed violence against an earlier partner in 1997. However, despite his clear history of repeated violence, the Parole Board and Gallese's parole officer made the shameful decision to sanction more violence by condoning and encouraging his perceived right to buy sex, thus signing the death warrant of Marylène. This is appalling. They should not have encouraged him to break the law.
In 2014, Parliament expressed grave concerns about the exploitation and violence inherent in prostitution through Bill . Through this bill, the buying of sex was made illegal because of the harm and violence created by the demand for prostitution.
The goal of Parliament was to protect human dignity and the equality of all Canadians by discouraging prostitution, which has a disproportionate impact on women and children, particularly indigenous women and girls. The bill did not seek to reduce the harm of prostitution, but to eliminate prostitution altogether because of the violence and exploitation inherent in it.
Prostitution creates an environment of violence and inequality for women and girls, perpetuates sexual commodification and turns the most vulnerable in our society into objects to be bought and sold. That is why Bill sought to eliminate the demand by prohibiting the purchase of sex.
Countries around the world that have legalized prostitution have seen the violence against, and the murder of, those who work in prostitution. They have seen sex trafficking increase, especially among youth. This has happened in Germany, New Zealand and the Netherlands. The legitimization of prostitution normalizes attitudes of violence, misogyny and the objectification of women and girls.
Men do not have the right to buy sex, or to buy women and girls for pleasure. However, in this country, I dare say in this chamber, there are those who believe that prostitution should be legalized and that men should be entitled to buy sex and treat women and girls as commodities.
This line of thinking is heinous. It is evil, and a brazen attack on equality and the safety of all women and girls in Canada. This insidious rationale was on full display in the Parole Board's last written decision with respect to Gallese where it states, although he is single and cannot say whether he is ready to enter into a serious relationship with a woman:
...you are able to efficiently evaluate your needs and expectations towards women.... During the hearing, your parole officer underlined a strategy that was developed with the goals that would allow you to meet women in order to meet your sexual needs.
In other words, while the Parole Board acknowledged that intimate relationships with some women were inappropriate as they would be unsafe, it explicitly acknowledged his sexual needs and affirmed his perceived right to buy sex from those trapped in prostitution. In their minds, the Parole Board members were protecting some women that they deemed more valuable, while sending a convicted murderer to prey upon those who were the most disadvantaged and vulnerable.
As this tragic case demonstrates, it perpetuates the idea that there should be a class of women who are able to be purchased for sex by men who believe they have the right to objectify and harm those who are for sale. That is what we are talking about with this case today.
The Liberal-appointed Parole Board members thought so little of those in prostitution that they were willing to knowingly put these women's lives in grave danger, women like Marylène. How else can we explain their words and actions, other than that they believed buying sex should be legal and therefore condoned Gallese's perceived right to sex as if it was legal? In their minds, Gallese's perceived right to buy sex was more important than the law.
If Parole Board members had followed the law, they would not have granted Gallese's parole for this purpose. If they had followed the law, they would have recognized the exploitation and violence inherent in prostitution instead of supporting Gallese's sexual needs. However, the Parole Board's attitudes toward women and prostitution reflect what we have seen from the Liberal government over the past few years: a clear pattern of always putting the rights of criminals ahead of the rights of victims and those at risk.
We know indigenous women and girls are the most represented victim group in sex trafficking and prostitution in Canada. They make up only 4% of Canada's population, yet make up more than 50% of the victims in Canada.
Last year the government reduced some of the human trafficking offences to summary offences, which will significantly increase the likelihood that a human trafficking offence against indigenous women will proceed as a summary conviction offence, further denying them justice. The government also eliminated the consecutive sentences for human trafficking that were adopted under the previous government. The loss of consecutive sentencing leaves victims with a continued reluctance to come forward and report a crime due to their immense fear and the psychological control that traffickers have over their victims.
In the days following this horrific case of injustice, many survivors of sex trafficking and prostitution spoke out. They are outraged and want justice for Marylène and others. I want to share with this House a few of these voices.
Trisha Baptie of B.C., a survivor of sex trafficking, stated:
[In my 15 years of involvement in the sex industry] it was never the laws that beat and raped and killed me and my friends, it was men. It was never the location we were in that was unsafe, it was the men we were in that location with who made it unsafe.
Baptie further stated that our laws must always focus on ending the demand for paid sex.
Casandra Diamond, a survivor of sex trafficking in massage parlours in Toronto, said the following:
...commodifying a woman's body is dangerous, always. It sends a message that buying someone is acceptable, enshrining the power imbalance where people from average to above-average socioeconomic status purchase other humans, mainly women and girls who have below-average socioeconomic status and power.
Timea Nagy, a survivor who was trafficked from Hungary to Canada and sold in legal strip clubs and massage parlours in the GTA, stated:
To think and promote sex work as “normal work” must come to an end. The Liberal government is completely blinded and refuses to hear our side of the story. How many more deaths will it take them to listen? 10? 20? 30?
I strongly condemn the Parole Board of Canada's decision to allow a convicted murderer to buy sex and I hope the government will also condemn this decision.
I also call on this government to stop allowing prostitution to be legitimized. Legitimizing prostitution and downplaying the seriousness of sex trafficking will lead to more violence against women and increased discrimination toward those most at risk in our country. Legitimizing prostitution creates two classes of people, those who can be commodified and sold and those who should not be.
There are some things in Canada that are just not for sale. For example, my vote is not for sale. Democracy is not for sale. People should never be for sale. Women and girls in Canada deserve better.
Mr. Speaker, it is with great concern that I rise today to speak to the motion before the House that condemns the decision of the Parole Board of Canada to grant day parole to a violent offender, which led to a young woman's murder by an inmate on day parole in January of this year, and to instruct the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security to conduct hearings into this matter, including a review of the changes made by the government in 2017 to the board's nomination process with a view to recommending measures to prevent another such tragedy from happening.
On January 22, our country was shocked and saddened over the news of the death of Marylène Levesque. The vivacious young 22-year-old woman was found dead in a Quebec City hotel room. Her accused murderer, 51-year-old Eustachio Gallese, brutally murdered his own wife in 2004 by beating her with a hammer and stabbing her multiple times. He was subsequently sentenced in 2006, receiving a life sentence without parole for 15 years. However, in January of this year, the Parole Board of Canada, acknowledging risk, allowed this man with a history of domestic and, I would say, sadistic violence against women out on day parole, which resulted in the death of the innocent Marylène.
This incident is beyond unacceptable and highlights once against the failure of the Liberal government's soft-on-crime approach. As everyone in the House can remember, it was not too long ago in 2018 when the Liberals fought tooth and nail against doing the right thing and putting Tori Stafford's killer back behind bars after Tori's murderer had been transferred to a healing lodge. We now have another brutal tragedy in front of us, and the Liberals' limited reactions are designed to minimize the severity of what has happened.
We are in 2020, and there is no room for such tragedy in our society. It is time for the Liberal government to assume responsibility, take action, talk less and put the rights of victims, especially vulnerable women, ahead of the sexual needs of criminals. Murderers such as Mr. Gallese should never have been given day parole in the first place, but what this highlights and what is troubling to me are the number of inexperienced members handling such sensitive files.
Current laws on sex work, introduced by the Conservative government in 2014, clearly indicate that it is illegal to purchase or advertise sexual services. This is not about whether sex work is legitimate work; it is about a murder that was preventable.
However, when Mr. Gallese's day parole was extended last September, a Parole Board officer noted that a so-called risk management strategy was developed in order to allow Gallese to meet women, but only to respond to his sexual needs. Really?
Such lack of judgment is extremely disturbing and clearly shows how low a priority the Liberal government gives to the safety of women and all Canadians. The government's mismanagement and revolving-door prison system is costing innocent Canadians their lives. This is not high-calibre decision-making.
Canadians are the ones at risk and the ones facing the consequences of this Liberal government's failures. By letting murderers loose on our streets, the Liberals are putting many women at risk, as well as men and young children.
We all know that in 2017, several Parole Board members sent a letter to the warning him about the potential ramifications of changes to the process for appointing Parole Board members. However, they never got a reply. What happened instead? Many of them did not have their terms renewed and were replaced by new members with very little experience.
In fact, last Wednesday, according to two former Parole Board members, the change to the Parole Board of Canada's nomination procedures directly resulted in the appointment of members with a lack of experience and may have been a critical factor in the death of the innocent Marylène Levesque.
Over the past couple of the days, the has told the House of Commons that a full investigation will be conducted, jointly by the commissioner of Correctional Service Canada and the chair of the Parole Board of Canada, to determine the circumstances surrounding Gallese's release.
Considering the seriousness of the current situation, bureaucrats investigating bureaucrats is not enough. We are demanding a full independent external investigation. This is a matter of transparency, security and safety of all Canadians. If the Liberal government has nothing to hide and wants to be completely transparent with Canadians, it should stop hiding behind curtains and vote in favour of our opposition day motion tomorrow.
Our criminal justice system is discredited, our security is threatened, women are especially vulnerable and it is our duty as the official opposition to hold the Liberal government to account and shed light on errors in our systems.
This is about the safety of Canadians, particularly women. This investigation should not be taken lightly.
There must be justice for Marylène Levesque—
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for .
I appreciate this opportunity to take part in this very important debate, which is taking place in the aftermath of the tragic murder of Marylène Levesque.
Before going any further, let me offer my sincere condolences to the victim's family and friends. Our thoughts are with them and with all the victims and survivors of gender-based violence.
Fundamentally, what happened on that day should never have happened, and it is gender-based violence. I want to take my time to shed light on gender-based violence in Canada, which takes place far too often in the country and is completely unacceptable.
In Canada, gender-based violence continues to take place at an alarming rate. Between 2008 and 2018, over 700 women were killed by a current or former legally married or common-law husband or other type of partner.
In 2018 alone, a total of 164 women and girls were killed in Canada.
The reality for indigenous women and girls is even worse. In 2018, the rate of homicide was nearly seven times higher for indigenous women and girls than of their non-indigenous counterparts.
What is more, 32% of women in Canada have experienced unwanted sexual behaviour in public.
In my riding of Brampton West, the region I represent, in the region of Peel, half of all homicides in 2019 were domestic related, specifically related to gender-based violence.
These statistics represent women. They represent women with families, women with futures, either taken from them or forever altered because of the long-term impact of gender-based violence.
I could go on and on. Gender-based violence has lifelong impacts on an individual's physical, mental and sexual health. The effects are serious and long term and impacts not just their families and friends, but entire communities.
Despite progress, gender-based violence persists as an intolerable and preventable problem in Canada, one that our government has taken concrete steps to address.
In 2017, we launched “It's Time: Canada's Strategy to Prevent and Address Gender-based Violence”, the first strategy of its kind. The strategy has invested $200 million in federal initiatives to prevent gender-based violence, support survivors and their families and promote responsive legal and justice systems.
I want to thank members of the minister's gender-based violence advisory council for their tireless and wise counsel as we have worked together over the past several years to end gender-based violence. This council is composed of survivors, front-line service providers and experts in the field from across the country.
I also want to take an opportunity to thank the countless not-for-profit organizations in the community that support women and girls fleeing violence. I would like to especially thank Hope 24/7 in Brampton West. It does incredible work to support survivors of gender-based violence.
Since 2015, our government has taken vital steps to strengthen our justice system and support survivors, including by enshrining a clearer definition of consent to clarify that an unconscious person is incapable of consenting, that only yes means yes, and to ensure that the past sexual history of individuals cannot be used to question their credibility.
We have also done this by toughening the domestic assault laws by establishing higher maximum sentences for repeat offenders; ensuring the justice system recognizes the seriousness of these offences; recognizing strangulation as an elevated form of assault; mandating the RCMP to complete the review of over 30,000 sexual assault case files that had previously been deemed unfounded in order to strengthen police accountability, training and awareness, investigative accountability, victim support, public education and communication.
We have also funded at least 7,000 shelter spaces, created or repaired for survivors of family violence, which means that women and girls fleeing domestic violence have a place to go. We have provided five days of paid leave for victims of family violence working in a federally regulated sector so that survivors have a greater opportunity to seek support, which can help with the healing process.
In 2018, we became the first government to introduce and pass legislation dealing specifically with workplace harassment and sexual violence in Parliament and in federally regulated workplaces. In 2019, we introduced the national strategy to combat human trafficking, a whole-of-government approach to address this unthinkable crime, and amendments were made to the Criminal Code to strengthen related laws.
Finally, this past December, we released data from the first-ever national gender-based violence survey. The survey of safety in public and private spaces is a first of three national surveys funded through Women and Gender Equality Canada as part of our federal gender-based violence strategy. We are also funding a survey on gender-based violence with post-secondary institutions and gender-based violence within workplaces in Canada. The data from these surveys will help improve information on the nature and extent of various forms of gender-based violence in the general population. This has improved our understanding of the experiences of survivors who have endured gender-based violence, so that we have more responsive initiatives that are better tailored to their needs.
This year, we intend to build on the work by the creation of the national action plan to end gender-based violence. As outlined in the recent Speech from the Throne, we will work with our partners so that anyone facing gender-based violence has reliable and timely access to protection and services, no matter who they are or where they live.
I think it is fair to say that our government has taken action on gender-based violence, to prevent it and to ensure that those who experience it have access to timely and responsive services. We are not sitting idly by while crimes such as the one that took place on January 22 in Quebec City continue to take place. We are tackling this problem head-on, and we know that until there are no more deaths like this or experiences of gender-based violence in Canada, there is always more that needs to be done.
Gender-based violence must not be tolerated. We will continue to work with survivors, community partners, the private sector and all orders of government to end it in all its forms. We also know that there is an awful lot of work that is left to do, and I look forward to working with all members in this House to make that happen.
Once again, on behalf of myself, all of my constituents and all members of this House, we send our deepest condolences to the victim's family and friends on this tragedy.
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the chance to speak to this motion put forward by the hon. member for . Before I go any further, I want to take this opportunity to recognize and thank the thousands of men and women who work in corrections every day and for the work that they do.
My heart broke when I learned of the murder of Marylène Levesque.
This young woman was 22 years old.
As a mother, I cannot even begin to imagine how her family and friends must be feeling in the wake of her passing.
I offer my sincere condolences to Ms. Levesque's family and friends.
Simply put, this never should have happened. The circumstances that led to this loss of life need to be examined in depth by external investigators to ensure that a situation like this does not happen again. This is exactly what this government proposes to do.
As we heard from the hon. , our government intends to carry out a full and transparent administrative review of the incidents, aimed at the decision that led to the untimely murder of Marylène Levesque. Why was a convicted murderer on day parole apparently allowed to visit a massage parlour in the first place, despite the fact that the Parole Board of Canada explicitly opposed it during a hearing back in September of last year?
I look forward to reading the findings of the administrative review into Correctional Service of Canada and the Parole Board of Canada, as well as the outcome of the criminal murder investigation currently being undertaken by Sûreté du Québec.
I also agree with the suggestion put forward by the hon. member that this matter be referred to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, but I believe that it would be a mistake to do so before both the internal review and the criminal investigation have concluded.
There is no question that a full parliamentary study will shed further light on how we got here and will help to recommend a path forward to ensure that no one else will have their life cut short like this again.
However, to begin that study now would not be nearly as effective as it could be when we consider that the relevant experts and officials would not be able to comment while an investigation is ongoing.
I strongly believe that the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security could carry out this study once the officials have finished, so that the witnesses would be able to share their opinions openly and answer questions freely. It would also allow committee members to hear from experts directly on the findings of the review in order to make fully informed and effective recommendations.
On the whole, I agree with the sentiments expressed in the hon. member's motion and I will be supporting it. However, I disagree with the immediate call to review the open, transparent and merit-based appointment process that was implemented by our government in 2017, as part of a larger push to improve Governor in Council appointments across the board.
This move ensured that a candidate's qualifications mattered more than their political contributions. It also opened the application process to allow for a more diverse pool of Canadians than ever before. At the time that the Conservatives left office, six of nine full-time Parole Board members in Quebec were Conservative partisans, and eight of nine were men.
Today, the board is made up of highly qualified individuals from diverse backgrounds. Most have backgrounds in law and corrections, psychology and education, policing, criminology and social work. Nearly a quarter are indigenous or belong to a visible minority.
Rather than immediately reviewing the appointment process for the Parole Board, I believe the most prudent question would be to determine why, following a PBC recommendation, the accused was apparently allowed to visit a massage parlour while on day parole. That, among other things, is what the administrative review will be examining.
We need to find out if the established protocols were followed properly, and how we can work to put safeguards in place. From there, should the findings of the review determine that a further review of the changes made to the nomination process is warranted, then the standing committee would be an appropriate place for that. I believe that, without a full understanding of the facts, this would be premature.
In any given year there are between 7,000 and 8,000 Canadians on some form of parole or conditional release. In 2013-14, 17 people were convicted of a violent offence, while in 2018-19, the number was down to just five. That year, 99.9% of day parolees did not commit a violent crime.
In summary, even though acts like this are extremely rare, we are reminded that we can and must do more to ensure, the best we can, that offenders serving out their sentences do not pose a risk to the public.
Keeping Canadians safe remains our top priority. We need to work tirelessly to prevent tragedies like this from ever happening again.
Mr. Speaker, I will be speaking in support of the motion and sharing my time with the member for .
It is a motion that would not be necessary if public safety had been seriously considered. We are facing a tragic situation, which we simply cannot turn a blind eye to. Changes need to be made, and they need to be made right away.
A woman, Marylène Levesque, is dead, not killed by an escaped prisoner but by a violent killer out on day parole. We must ask how it was that Eustachio Gallese was on day parole in the first place.
In 2004, Mr. Gallese murdered his wife in cold blood by beating her with a hammer before fatally stabbing her with two knives. He was convicted in 2006 and sentenced to life in prison, with no chance of parole for 15 years. This wife killer should not have been eligible for parole until next year. How was it that he was out on day parole in the first place? Do court sentences matter anymore?
If it was not bad enough that he was on day parole, he also had no restrictions limiting his time with women. This was a man with a history of violence toward women, yet he was regularly out in the community consorting with female sex workers and he was violent toward them. In fact, he was banned from a massage parlour in the area for being violent and aggressive.
Then two weeks ago, he engaged with another sex worker, Ms. Levesque, in a hotel room and brutally stabbed her. This should not have happened. This woman should still be alive. Our correctional system, our parole system and the Liberal government failed Marylène Levesque and the public.
“Why” and “how” are the questions that Canadians are asking their government, and they deserve answers.
Actually, Canadians deserve more than answers. They deserve to feel safe in their communities and homes. They deserve to have a government that puts their safety first, not the sexual fantasies of a convicted wife killer.
Sadly, over the last four years we have seen too many times the system bending to criminals to give them more comfort, instead of providing victims with comfort. Whether it is allowing child killers to serve time in minimum-security healing lodges, or allowing wife killers unsupervised access to sex workers, criminal rights seem to come first under the current government.
It takes an outrageous act and a massive outcry before the government wakes up and does something. That action only lasts until a story is out of the headlines, and then we are right back where we started.
When this happens again, will we see some real action? I say when and not if, because it is probably only a matter of time.
Who will be the next victim? Who will be the next reoffender? Will it be Terrence Burlingham, who raped and murdered two young girls in the 1980s in British Columbia? In 2018, it was found that Mr. Burlingham posed a danger due specifically to the presence of sexual sadism, anti-social personality disorder and psychopathic features, yet Mr. Burlingham recently received permission for supervised absences.
Interestingly and sadly enough, back in the 1980s, Mr. Burlingham was under mandatory supervision orders arising from break-and-enter charges when he committed these grisly murders in the first place.
Will it be Shane Ertmoed? In October 2000, he murdered 10-year-old Heather Thomas of Surrey. He received a mandatory life sentence, with no eligibility for parole for 25 years.
Heather was visiting her father's Cloverdale townhouse. Three weeks later, her body was found floating in Alouette Lake located in my riding. Ertmoed told police he invited Heather into his townhouse, laid her down on the floor, removed her pants and underpants, and choked her while stifling her screams of protest.
He used his black football bag to carry her body along with her clothing to his vehicle and drove to Golden Ears Provincial Park before hiding the bag in dense forest. The next day he returned, recovered the bag, inflated a small dinghy and dropped the bag into the lake.
The faint hope clause under which offenders convicted of first-degree murder may apply for a reduced parole eligibility period after 15 years in prison was scrapped by the Conservative government in 2011. However, because this crime predated the law, he was eligible to apply for a hearing.
Heather Thomas, only 10 years old, could easily have been my daughter. Mr. Ertmoed worked in the townhouse complex next to ours and was very friendly toward my daughter and the girls she played with. They had a lemonade stand. They called him "the rocket".
In our society, women deserve protection, and that is the objective of this motion.