Mr. Speaker, I move that the seventh report of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, presented on Wednesday, December 7, 2022, be concurred in.
I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for .
The seventh report of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights speaks to improving the response to victims of crime. I can honestly say, and I think all Canadians agree, if we believe what we are seeing in the news, that the response of the government to victims of crime has been woefully inadequate. I can go further. When we talk about victims of crime, we are also talking about the victims' families, and that came through loud and clear in our report. Once again, even today we are talking about the impact on victims of crime and their families of the government's soft-on-crime revolving door justice system.
I will speak to some of the measures in our report.
One of the things we heard loud and clear was the need to address the unfair situation of sentence discounts for multiple murders. What that means is that in Canada, someone who is convicted of first-degree murder receives a life sentence but is eligible for parole in only 25 years. What this has led to is a ludicrous situation. For example, in Moncton, New Brunswick, an individual killed three of our Mounties, three police officers, just trying to do their job, and that individual would have received a 25-year parole ineligibility, the same as if they had killed one person. We have seen situations of mass murder in this country where someone kills three, five or six people, and they would receive the exact same parole ineligibility as if they had killed one person.
We believe, on this side of the House, that every life should count, every victim should be counted and every victim's family should be respected. That is why when we were in government, we brought in legislation for ending sentence discounts for multiple murders. This meant that an individual who committed multiple murders would receive multiple consecutive periods of parole ineligibility. It is why the individual who killed the three Mounties in Moncton received a 75-year parole ineligibility. Other mass murderers in Canada sentenced since that legislation have received similar sentences.
Unfortunately, the Supreme Court struck down that provision. We all know that a charter dialogue takes place between the legislature, Parliament and the Supreme Court, and it is absolutely scandalous that the government has not responded to that Supreme Court decision. We have called on it for over a year to respond to this decision, to make it right and to listen to victims' families.
When we were studying the response to victims of crime, that came up more often than not. One of our great witnesses was Sharlene Bosma. Many members will remember that name, as it was her husband who was killed by a mass murderer, someone who murdered at least three individuals. What Sharlene said left a lasting impact on me as well as on many members, certainly on this side of the House.
She said that through the whole process of attending hearings every day, attending court and working to ensure a conviction of this individual who took the life of her husband, the one solace she took when he was sentenced is that her daughter would never have to attend parole hearings and face this monster. However, with one decision from the Supreme Court, that has been ripped away. Now this individual will be eligible for parole in what is left of his 25 years, and Sharlene Bosma, her daughter and other victims' families will have to face unnecessary parole eligibility hearings. Once again, the government throws up its hands.
Even in today's headlines it is reported that one of the worst killers in Canada, one of the most notorious, the Scarborough rapist, Paul Bernardo, has been moved, to the horror of the victims' families and all Canadians, from a maximum-security prison, where he should have spent the rest of his life, to a medium-security prison. We see, on the other, side feigned outrage. We see crocodile tears. We hear “How could this happen? We're going to look into this”, but now we are finding out every day that the knew. Now we are finding out that the knew.
Why did it happen in the first place? Part of the reason it happened is the government's own legislation. When the government brought in Bill , which amended section 28 of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, it meant that, when considering transfers from one institution to another, the litmus test brought in by the government is that offenders have to be held in the least restrictive environment. When the Liberals passed that legislation, and when they refused to act when they found out about this transfer, they made this an inevitability. This is on the Liberal government.
I also want to address bail in this country. This came up again and again in our victims study. There are victims who are unnecessarily victimized. They are victims because our justice system has failed to protect them from repeat violent offenders. Just last week, we had a witness at justice committee, and what she said left an impression on me. She said that we do not have a justice system; we have a legal system, but many victims do not see justice in our system.
Canadians fail to see justice when this government, through Bill , put in a principle of restraint when it comes to bail. It has led to the outrageous situation of individuals who are repeat violent offenders, individuals who have been caught for firearms offences and are out on bail, committing another firearms offence. This is happening in Toronto, and the Toronto police helpfully provided us with the statistics. While out on bail for a firearms offence, offenders commit another firearms offence and get bail again. This is outrageous. The Liberals will say, “This is too bad. It is unfortunate that gun crime is taking place”, but it is taking place as a direct result of both their actions and their inaction, their failure to respond to a revolving-door justice system. I can tell members that Canadians are fed up with it.
There is only one party that is committed to ending the revolving door, committed to ensuring that victims voices are heard, committed to appealing the measures in Bill that have led to this revolving door, committed to ending the outrageous situation in which individuals who commit gun crime are given no more than a slap on the wrist, and committed to ensuring that individuals who commit arson and burn down someone's home are not eligible to serve their sentence with a conditional sentence. What is a conditional sentence? It is house arrest. Under our Criminal Code, somebody could burn down a house and serve their so-called sentence playing video games from the comfort of their own home.
When we were in government, we brought in legislation to change that, to end the revolving door, to have consequences for criminal actions and to protect the most vulnerable. We made sure that sex offenders were listed on the sex offender registry. We made sure that sex offenders served their sentence in prison and not in the community where they offended.
However, under the current government, with both actions and failure to take action, we have a situation where communities are more and more in danger. Members do not have to take my word for it; this information is publicly available. Violent crime is up 32% in this country. Gang-related homicides are up almost 100% in this country. The approach of the revolving door, of allowing repeat offenders to continue to offend, is not working, and a Conservative government, led by Pierre Poilievre, will address—
Madam Speaker, it is always a privilege and honour to speak in the chamber, but, more importantly, to lend a voice to the fine residents of Brantford—Brant. On a topic such as this, with next to no notice, it is even more important that I lend an appropriate voice.
I come at debates on criminal justice issues and victim issues from a place of significant experience. I know that several members have heard me explain my background, but for those who have not, it is important to remark that, prior to being elected in September 2021, I enjoyed a 30-year legal career. In those 30 years, I saw both sides of the equation. I defended the worst of the worst for 12 years. I defended individuals charged with shoplifting, mischief, paintball, tagging and spray-painting offences, all the way up to and including murder.
I decided, after reflecting on my 12-year defence career, that it did not give me a sense of satisfaction, because, ultimately, when I cross-examined victims of crime from all walks of life, from young children all the way to senior citizens, it was heartbreaking to see how our criminal justice system works. It is extremely adversarial. Defence counsel have a job to do, and that job is to ensure that there is a fair trial, but, reflecting on the fairness of trials, sometimes one has to sacrifice one's personal beliefs and morals.
After 12 years, I was at the point when I was about to get married and wanted to start a family, and I asked myself what type of husband and father I wanted to be. I was taking steps to ensure serious violent offenders were escaping justice and responsibility. Although it is ultimately the task of a defence lawyer not only to ensure not fairness but also, hopefully, win the case, it certainly creates havoc with respect to the victim's sense of what type of system we have. My colleague, the member for , could not have said it better: in our role as a parliamentarians, the theme we hear over and over again is that this is definitely not a justice system but merely a legal system.
When I joined the Crown's office in 2004, every single day that I was a public servant for the Province of Ontario left me with a gratifying feeling. Not only was I contributing to the fairness aspect of our legal system, our justice system, by holding offenders accountable, but also I was, in my small way, giving victims the voice they felt they had lost in being victimized, not being believed by police services, not being believed by legal professionals, or not being believed by judges. I took it as my personal mantra to dispel as many myths as possible when prosecuting, as I said, shoplifting, which has a societal impact, all the way to multiple murders. I have seen it all in my 18 years of Crown experience. I was left with a goal to ensure that, in my small way, I left victims whole again.
While offenders who do get punished usually end up in jail, depending on the nature of the crime, they will serve their sentence and move on with their lives. The same cannot be said for victims of crime. Some victims of crime live with the trauma of this experience for the rest of their natural lives. It was important for me as Crown counsel for the Province of Ontario to equip those victims who went through this horrific process and to give them the tools to put together their lives after this crime.
It begs the question of why I chose to leave a very rewarding, satisfying career as a Crown attorney to enter these halls. The answer is simple. I was sick and tired of seeing the escalation of crime from coast to coast to coast, but particularly in my small riding of Brantford—Brant.
I was born and raised in my riding. I remember growing up, all through high school, my university days, my law school days and ultimately my career as a lawyer and Crown attorney, it was a safe place to live and to raise a family. Literally, in the last 10 years of my practice as a Crown attorney, I was seeing a gradual increase in the prevalence of crime, but more so a prevalence of serious violent crime.
Early on in my Crown days it would be common not to prosecute a homicide for several years. Fast-forward to 2020 and 2021, when I ultimately took a leave of absence to pursue politics, and we had 12 homicides on the books, with a small office of six Crown attorneys. It was overwhelming.
It was not just the homicides. We had shootings, drug trafficking, fentanyl and all kinds of the nasty criminal activity this House speaks about literally on a daily basis and that we read about online or in the papers. That is what was happening. I felt my effective voice as a Crown attorney could only go so far. I wanted to be an instrument of change. I wanted to correct the wrongs with respect to our legal system.
I must say it was completely frustrating for me to arrive in this House and hear the government touting how serious it is about our justice system, about holding offenders accountable and about victims' rights. Everything it does ultimately is the complete opposite.
As my colleague has already indicated, Bill is a disaster. It is still a disaster, taking the most significant, serious, violent offences and opening up the possibility they can serve it in the comfort of their own homes. I am going to go further on conditional sentences, or house arrest. These individuals are entitled to work, spend some time in the community and go shopping.
That is not holding an offender accountable, so it brings me full circle as to why we are here. We are here because the has lost the trust of Canadians and of this House, and on that basis, I am asking that the motion be amended.
That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following:
the Seventh Report of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, presented on Monday, April 17, 2023, be not now concurred in, but that it be recommitted to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights with instruction that it amend the same so as to recommend that the Minister of Public Safety immediately resign given his total lack of consideration for victims of crime in his mishandling of the transfer to more cozy arrangements of one of the worst serial killers in Canadian history, that this unacceptable move has shocked the public and created new trauma for the families of the victims and that the Minister of Public Safety's office knew about this for three months prior to Paul Bernardo's transfer and instead of halting it, the information was hidden from the families.
Madam Speaker, maybe the best place to start off this discussion is that, at times, the role the Conservatives feel they need to play can be fairly upsetting. However, before I comment on that, I want to take the opportunity to think of the victims, Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy, and their families. It is incredibly difficult for any one of us to imagine the horror of what took place and the impact it has had, not only on the families of these two victims, but also on their friends, the people who got to know Kristen and Leslie.
There is no doubt whatsoever in my mind of the horror caused by Bernardo, and many have talked about this horrific crime. At the time of the incidents, I was living in the Prairies, and I was an MLA. I can recall many nights watching what had taken place in the trial on the news broadcasts, and I recall the anger that was generated as a result of this horrific crime. I do not believe there is a member in the House, no matter what political party one represents, who would disagree in any fashion whatsoever that the actions taken by Bernardo at that time were nothing less than totally horrific. When we see something of that nature, we want to ensure there is a sense of justice that will be applied.
There is no doubt in my mind that today, just as we saw yesterday, it will continue to be discussed in the chamber. I suspect there is a very good chance that it will come up in question period. I would encourage the Conservative Party, in particular, to consider this issue for an opposition day motion. I say that because there are so many issues out there that no doubt would be of interest to Canadians.
I have a concern in dealing with the debate Conservatives have put on the floor this morning, and I had posed this in the form of a question to the member earlier, which is that the members opposite know there is a limited timeframe to deal with legislation. They continue to bring forward concurrence motions on reports. They know that by doing so, they are preventing debate on government legislation.
They pull a report out of the pot to say it is an urgent issue, such as the most recent one with respect to housing and the housing crisis. We had a discussion on it. Before that, opposition members brought forward concurrence reports to prevent government from debating legislation. The Conservative Party continues to do that, whether it has been in this session or years past, yet I have never seen it bring a concurrence report on an opposition day, not once. I think it is important for Canadians to realize that the issue Conservatives are raising will be talked about later today, so they are not fooling anyone.
It is an important issue. People are genuinely concerned. As the clearly indicated yesterday, and as indicated in communications from the Government of Canada, we are genuinely concerned about this issue. It is on the front burner. We are all appalled by the impact that this is having, not only on the family members, but also on our communities as a whole.
I do not need to be told by Conservatives that I do not care about the issue because I do care. They try to give a false impression, as if only the Conservative Party of Canada wants to discuss an issue or have an issue addressed. It is a false impression.
Last night I was here, I think it was around 9:30 in the evening, and I was speaking in my place. I was talking about child care. We can talk about inflation and the positive impact the child care program is having, and there is about 20 minutes of debate still left on that. Then we are going to pass through that legislation.
If the Conservatives want to continue sitting for the month June, going into July, it would not bother me. Honestly, I would come back in July. I will sit as many days as the opposition would like to sit. I am open to it. I do not mind when the House sits until midnight.
What I do mind is when the Conservatives continuously and consistently play that destructive force preventing government legislation from passing. We witnessed that when the said he would stand up to speak until the government and the changed the budget implementation bill. A few hours later, the bill passed.
It passed because there is a process, and the Conservatives could not bring in a concurrence motion there. Otherwise, who knows what concurrence motion they would have brought in.
Canadians did elect a minority government back in 2021, but what they expected is not only a responsible, accountable government but also a responsible and accountable Conservative opposition. With the exception of some things that might have occurred during the pandemic in the previous Parliament, I have not witnessed that. Instead, I see the Conservatives amping things up whenever they get the opportunity to do so, even if the opportunity is not legitimate.
Instead, the Conservatives will go on character assassinations and things of that nature. I do not say that lightly. I am not trying to belittle the issue in that report, but we saw that with the moving of the amendment. The members moved an amendment. We could ask how that amendment is directly related to the report itself. I would suggest the Conservatives are proposing a politically motivated amendment. They are more concerned about the politics than the issue, and it is not the first time.
We have seen how the Conservatives always tend to favour fundraising and seem to favour the politics as opposed to the issue at hand. We have seen that not only with the introduction of a concurrence motion but also with the moving of the amendment. Was the amendment even called for? Was it even necessary?
We have standing committees of the House that meet to discuss a wide variety of issues. They come up with reports and a series of recommendations, and then the report comes to the House. The vast majority of reports never get called upon for concurrence motions, but it is a tool to be used on occasion. I even used it when I was in opposition years ago, but I like to think that I never abused that tool.
Let us contrast with the Conservative Party of Canada's behaviour with the concurrence of reports. One only needs to look. Why did the Conservatives bring it in today and then move an amendment to the concurrence motion? If they were genuine in wanting to deal with the report, that is what the debate should have been about. Then we would all concur in the report, or if we wanted to vote against it, we would do that. However, that was not the purpose of moving concurrence of the report. This is the sensitive issue of the murder, and who knows what else, as I am not going to get into the graphic details, of both Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy. The Conservatives are taking that issue today and using it as a way, in part, to filibuster. That is shameful.
They might be able to fool some, but for many the truth is known because we can see it in the amendment more than anything else. What does the report actually talk about? What are the recommendations of the report? I have a copy of the report and a series of recommendations. I was even provided some of the ministerial responses to the recommendations. I do not see any of that in the amendment proposed by the Conservative Party. I do not see that at all.
What I see consistently on the issue of crime from the Conservative Party is a lot of talk. The Conservatives like to talk tough. They really do. The last time we had this kind of talk on an issue such as this was a few years back. It is not that often that I will quote myself, but I am going to do that. I am going back to February 4, 2020, when I am making reference to the Conservative Party in Hansard. I said:
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.
It is a totally different, horrific crime, and the Conservatives were jumping out of their seats and giving graphic descriptions. That is how I could recall the speech I had given a few years back. There were graphic descriptions of the crime committed and how it was the Government of Canada's fault. Where was that passion for child murderers then? Was it somewhat misplaced when we found out that it was actually Stephen Harper's government that authorized transfers to medium-security institutions?
Today, here we have a very high-profile incident, likely one of the worst and most horrific incidents in Canadian history, or definitely in the top two or three. It was amplified across the country, even though it is an incident that happened in a relatively small, loving community.
Everyone knew about the case; it was on the nightly news. The opposition members are taking that tragedy, trying to piggyback on top of a report from a standing committee that put forward 13 recommendations. There are many ways in which the opposition could be dealing with the issue. They are using this report as a mechanism to say they want to talk about the issue of crime for three hours, in order to prevent and ratchet up one issue. What are they actually preventing?
If we had gone on to government business, we would have actually been debating Bill , which had under a half-hour of debate left. That legislation will ensure, for the first time ever in the history of Canada, that we actually have a national child care program from coast to coast to coast. This program has already delivered $10-a-day day care in a number of provinces and, I understand, at least one territory. It is having a real impact on the lives of Canadians. More women are working today in the workforce in terms of a percentage than ever before. The program was modelled after what the federal government saw taking place in the province of Quebec. That is what we were supposed to be debating today. As on many other occasions, the Conservatives, as the has demonstrated, do whatever they can to prevent legislation from passing through the House of Commons.
We will likely have a chance to go over those 13 recommendations in that report. What colleagues will find is that that report is being manipulated to the degree in which it has been amended to politicize it. This takes away the work that a good number of members on all sides of the House put into the report.
I will just give one or two of the recommendations:
That the Department of Justice establish a national working group with federal and provincial government officials, representatives from community organizations that work with victims, and victims’ representatives to agree on national best practices and minimum standards for victims of crime, particularly as regards the level of support and the services available to victims.
The member was talking about victims. The government sees the value in terms of supporting victims. Enhanced funding was part of the recommendations, recognizing that our judicial system is a joint responsibility. We have to and we do work with provincial, territorial and indigenous communities. The member is criticizing us about the issue of victims. The government has not only recognized victims but also allocated funding to victims. This is a part of the response to the report from the minister: “Several of the Committee's recommendations speak to the need for enhanced funding for victim services and victim-focused activities. A key component of the FVS, a horizontal government initiative led by Justice Canada, is the Victims Fund. When it was established in 2000, the Victims Fund had $5 million available.... Since then, the funding available has grown to a little under $32 million in 2022-2023.”
The government understands the importance of victims. We do not need to be told by the Conservative Party. We understand the harm that is caused by horrific incidents, and we will continue to be focused on Canadians.
Madam Speaker, first of all, I ask my colleagues' permission to share my time with my colleague from .
I am going to talk about the report that is the main focus of our debates today. With respect to the amendment proposed by the Conservatives, I will let the minister defend himself as he sees fit. Those of us in the Bloc Québécois are also outraged by this treatment—I would not say preferential treatment, but the treatment Mr. Bernardo received. It seems victims rights' have been ignored in this case. It is shocking to us too, but I will let the minister present the arguments he deems appropriate. We will see when the time comes.
I was proud to sit on the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights when we studied these provisions. Of all the areas of federal jurisdiction, the Criminal Code is among the most important. I do not wish to diminish the importance of international relations, the environment or other matters, but the Criminal Code has an impact on the daily lives of many Canadians. The federal government's power over the Criminal Code and criminal activity is a very big deal. I was very proud to take part in those debates.
The report contains a number of recommendations. They are all important, but I would particularly like to draw my colleagues' attention to the provisions set out in recommendations 7, 8, 9 and 10 regarding victim's participation in the process.
I think this is essential. In a criminal trial, decisions are often made about the punishment that will or will not be imposed on the accused. Some consideration is also often given to the fate of the victims of the crimes in question, but perhaps not always enough. At least, victims may not get a chance to participate effectively in trials that involve them. We heard from many witnesses on this issue in committee. What came up quite frequently was the lack of information. Victims do not know what rights they have during their attacker's trial.
We think it would be important to run education campaigns on this issue, while taking into account the different areas of jurisdiction, of course. My colleagues know how important that is to me. Raising awareness should not mean encroaching on the jurisdictions of Quebec and the provinces. We think there could be discussions on this, but public education campaigns have to be set up to properly inform citizens of their rights when they are victims of a crime.
There is the whole issue of the ombudsman. The position was vacant for quite some time, but was finally filled last fall. A new ombudsman was appointed. However, the budget for the office of the ombudsman is rather meagre. I think this should be reconsidered to ensure that there is a full team of competent people working with the ombudsman, because the role of ombudsman is essential in the criminal trial process. The public education campaigns and the ombudsman are important elements that we will find in more detail in recommendations 7, 8, 9 and 10 of the report. That said, I do not want to minimize the importance of reading all 13 recommendations.
I would also like to draw my colleagues' attention to recommendations 11 and 12. We talked about them recently. Important groups are calling for this. Motions to this effect have been moved in the House. We must absolutely ensure that the publication bans in criminal cases have the desired scope and effect.
Publication bans are issued to protect the victims, not to protect the public. However, under the current system, most of the time publication bans are requested by the Crown prosecutor, sometimes almost automatically, often without the victims having been consulted.
Once the publication ban has been ordered, the victim does not have the authority to ask that it be lifted. However, victims often want to speak out publicly in the media about the crimes committed against them. They want to talk about how the crime affected their lives and their family's lives. They want to have some input on the punishment they consider appropriate in their case.
In every case, the victim comes up against a publication ban that they do not have the right to breach. If they do, they could be prosecuted. This makes no sense to me. Victims testified at our committee about this issue. I do not even understand why this rule is in place. They are quite right. We need to allow publication bans, because they are essential in some cases. Some victims say they do not want the crime they were a victim of to be discussed. They do not want their family, neighbours or children to read about it in the media.
However, other victims say that it is therapeutic for them to talk about it. The needs and rights of the victims must be considered. Publication bans are central to victims' rights and needs. I recommend that the House pay particular attention to this issue, which is addressed in recommendations 11 and 12 of the report. This strikes me as being essential.
There is also recommendation 13, which deals with the issue of restitution orders. In a justice system that many say should be increasingly restorative, perhaps victims should be provided with better access to restitution. Any time a trial extends over several days or even several weeks, it might make sense to assume that the presiding judge has a good idea of the damages suffered by the victims. It might also seem appropriate for the judge to rule on some of those damages and ensure that the orders made are binding and that the victims have the opportunity to ensure that they are enforced. Access to restitution is important.
Publication bans should be ordered or sought by the Crown only after the victim has consented to the ban. For example, the judge could seek or require the victim's consent before issuing a publication ban. If the victim does not consent, a discussion could take place with the judge and the Crown as to why a ban should or should not be imposed. A mechanism must be found to ensure that victims participate in these orders and are able to have them lifted when it is in their best interest.
Again, I could never overstate the importance of supporting victims, as I discussed at the start of my speech. However, we need to invest funds in providing the necessary information to victims. At the moment, that information is meagre. Although I dislike using the same word twice, the adjective seems to fit the ombudsman's office and information services too. As things stand, a person who becomes a victim of crime is unaware of the services they are entitled to receive. The victim's level of involvement in the process will depend on the prosecutor assigned to the case. I think we need to inform victims, but we also need to inform Crown attorneys about what they must offer victims to have them participate, understand the process and exercise their rights along the way.
Madam Speaker, my colleague will surely agree with me that there is irony in this. I withdraw the word. We are then sitting every evening until midnight. That was my introduction.
Now, we need to talk about this serious and very important subject of victims’ rights. This committee report seems fundamental to me. However, we need to be very vigilant on the issue of jurisdiction. The report’s first recommendation refers to creating a national working group to agree on consistent standards and practices—or at least as consistent as possible. I understand the merits of that proposal. My colleague from mentioned it earlier. However, we will have to be very vigilant when working with the governments of Quebec, the other provinces and the territories, because they are the ones responsible for the administration of justice, and therefore all these conditions.
As indicated in the report’s second recommendation, the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights must be reviewed to include the right to support. This is fundamental.
I will tell a sad story from last year. There was a traffic accident in my riding. It was an accident caused by someone who was intoxicated. It therefore became a criminal act. The body of a 17‑year‑old youth who was killed in the accident—I find it hard not to get emotional when I talk about it because I knew these people really well—became an exhibit in court. That is an example of victims’ rights. Members may look at me funny, but they will understand the connection. This young person's body became evidence. After three days, the mother called me in terrible distress because she was unable to retrieve the body of the child she had just lost.
I understand the police investigation and everyone understands there are processes, but we can all see the hole in our system. During all that time, the parents were being told nothing; they were not there. They are the direct victims of the criminal act that was perpetrated, and they were not being looked after. The member for was contacted and this was then resolved. However, those people suffered for many hours.
Maybe that could be fixed, and we could do better. People need to be informed because, in my example, no one was giving the parents any information or telling them when it would be over. I am sure we understand what I mean. It is very important that we take care of victims of criminal acts.
The fourth recommendation of the committee’s report pertains to information for victims. This too is fundamental. This information should be provided automatically, and victims should not have to fight for it. That is not normal either. The person has already been victimized by a crime and their life is destabilized; we need to help them, not put new obstacles and new challenges in their way. This is fundamental. Again, it is clear that this victim will want information. To me, making the information available seems central to everything.
Next, information should be provided to people who are victims. In the case of the mother I talked about earlier, no one gave her any information. We need to inform people about their remedies and their rights. Doing that will take money. That was mentioned earlier.
Victims should also be allowed to participate in the process and be informed. Let us imagine a victim of an extremely violent crime. A release process is under way, but the victim was not informed; she is then faced with a done deal. Imagine this person’s anguish. The victim may wonder whether this person will come back to see them or whether there will be reprisals. It is important that victims be included in the judicial process, that they be respected and properly supported. That, too, is a question of resources.
My colleague from Rivière-du-Nord also stressed the importance of the recommendations that deal with publication bans. Sometimes, people can act very quickly and these bans will be issued. If I believe the findings of the committee’s report, that is being done without the victim’s consent.
However, the first person that should be consulted in the entire process is the victim. It may be that the victim does not want the publication ban. That also carries a risk. For example, a person who was shaken, who communicated but made a mistake by conveying too much information, may be found in breach of the ban by the court. This is clearly not acceptable.
Beyond all that, there is the issue of resource allocation. I approached one of my Conservative colleagues who gave a speech this morning to ask him whether we had the necessary resources in our justice system to properly represent, among others, the Crown. I have major doubts about this. Perhaps more money should be transferred to Quebec and the provinces. This is also very important.
Let us talk about support resources. What we are seeing when we work in our ridings is that there are a lot of community organizations. These community organizations have extremely dedicated people who are there for the right reasons, to help people. When we inquire about these people's living conditions, we realize that they work an incredible number of hours for a scant wage. That requires moral fortitude. Those who deal with human suffering have a hard time shaking it off when they go home to have supper with their families. These people provide extraordinary services to the community. I dream of the day when there will be enough funding for these people, who I see as discounted government subcontractors because taking care of people is a collective responsibility.
In the case of victims of crime, in particular, people need to be taken by the hand, accompanied and informed about what they can do. They need to be asked what they want and what they do not want. For instance, if they choose to allow a publication ban, they need to be told what that means. They need to be asked if they are ready to live with that. Often, things move quickly, and things are not explained because the resources are not there, because there is no time. People must have the time to take care of victims.
In closing, let us talk about the amendment. We will not start defending the minister, who seems to be aware of very few things in his life. However, a bit like my colleague from Rivière-du-Nord, I question the relevance of tying that to this report, although there is indeed an indirect link. I think there are other ways of addressing that. The importance of the report must not be overlooked, and it must be adopted.
Madam Speaker, I am of two minds about this debate this morning, because a concurrence debate about a unanimous report, which is on a very important topic, is a good thing, but I am also concerned if the real intent behind this debate is a diversion from others business of Parliament rather than actually talking about the important recommendations of this report.
Certainly, we heard from a wide range of people in the committee on this report. Many individual victims of crime came at a great personal cost and retold their stories of what had happened to them and the effects of being a victim of crime. We heard from many organizations that provide services to victims of crime. I want to pay particular thanks to the organization Mothers Against Drunk Driving, which has a very active victims' advocacy program.
We heard from the victims ombudsman, and I want to pay respect at this point to both the previous victims ombudsman, Heidi Illingworth, and the current ombudsman, Benjamin Roebuck, for the important research and advocacy work they do on behalf of victims in this country.
I hope what we can do in this debate is maintain the focus on what we heard from those victims and those victims' advocates and the recommendations that were unanimously approved in the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. An important function of this debate today could be to encourage the government, in the many different departments involved, to make progress on these recommendations.
There are other mechanisms available in this House for holding government ministers to account. I know the hon. members of the Conservative Party know that, they have been using those, so again I will stress my concern that we are not actually doing this debate for some other purpose when there are other mechanisms available. No matter what one thinks about that issue, they are there, they have been used and they can continue to be used. I hope the impact of this is not going to focus on another issue, which is important, yes, but another issue rather than the issues that were raised in this report. Again, I am concerned we keep that focus on moving forward on the recommendations in this report.
There are a number of chapters in this report, and it kind of amazed me that in the end, on a topic that has often been contentious in Parliament, we were able to reach a consensus on 13 recommendations. That is a bit of a miracle, especially in a minority Parliament and especially on an issue that has previously been so contentious.
I bring attention to chapter 4, which talks about services for victims of crime, and I will come to that in just a minute. There is a whole chapter on the right to information about the legal process in this report. There are recommendations on the rights of victims to participate in the legal process and how we meet the challenges victims face when they try to participate in this legal process. There is a chapter on the right to protection of victims while they are participating in the process, and I will return to that one a little later on.
There is an important chapter on the idea of restitution, on how often victims of crime cannot be made whole again in both financial and circumstantial areas. There is a final chapter on complaint mechanisms and remedies, so when the system goes wrong for victims what they have available to them to make that known to the system and to those who have the power to change that.
If we talk about services, one of the important things I learned from this is that in the Victims Bill of Rights there is no right to access to services for victims of crime. I think that is an oversight, and this committee, in recommendation 2, says that we should fix that. We know it is going to be a challenge. The federal government shares the justice field with the provinces and administration of justice belongs to the provinces.
That is why in recommendation 3 in this report it talks about working together to set some minimum standards of what is available to victims, in terms of support services and participation in the various parts of the legal process. I was very pleased to hear my hon. colleague from the Bloc Québécois agreeing we do need to work together to achieve some minimum standards. Again, that is part of the miracle of this report, which is that even on contentious federal-provincial issues we were able to reach agreement on how to better serve victims.
What do victims really need? There is a whole range of things, but the thing we heard most often is they need support services that are tailored to their needs and that quite often those needs are different.
Victims from different backgrounds have different needs to support them participating in the process and also to recover as a victim of crime. Lots of times, the services that we have available do not actually take into account the different circumstances, especially of those who are most marginalized in our society and especially of indigenous people. Having culturally relevant and culturally appropriate services available to victims is something we often fall down on and we do not do such good job.
When we are talking about services for victims of crime, we have tended to ignore mental health services. Again, my colleague from Comox has been a great advocate for mental health services. This report acknowledges that victims quite often need very specific kinds of therapy in order to get back to full participation in society, after having been victimized by criminal activity. I commend that chapter to everyone in the House. It is a very important chapter on the gaps in our approaches.
I was surprised to learn that is legal aid is generally not available, in any form, to victims of crime. Even though I taught criminal justice for many years, I had not really thought about this from the perspective of victims. We provide legal aid to defendants, and of course we have prosecutors who are paid for by the public. However, when it comes to victims of crime participating, legal assistance is generally not available to them. We depend on advocacy organizations to provide that advice and that assistance to victims of crime.
That brings me to the chapter on the right to information. Again, we did something peculiar when we established victims' rights and we said that the victims have rights to ask for information about the system. What we heard, again and again, from victims and their advocacy organizations is quite often victims do not even know what to ask. The system is so unfamiliar, so complex and so unforgiving. In particular for people who suffered trauma, it is so difficult to navigate that they do not even know what rights they have or to ask how to access those rights.
An important recommendation in this report, recommendation 4, is that we change the onus of providing information to an automatic provision of information to victims. Some jurisdictions do a better job than others in making sure victims understand what their rights are and what services are available to them. Again, we largely depend on those volunteer organizations to inform victims of their rights. However, if someone is not in touch with one of those organizations, they are left in the dark about how this very complex legal system of ours actually works.
Let us change this from saying that it is on victims to request information to it is on someone specific. We have not tried to solve that problem in this report, but we have indicated that it needs to be someone specific. We cannot just say there is right to information without saying who is actually going to deliver that information. It is up to the governments, again, because we have a justice system that is split over jurisdictions. It is up to those jurisdictions to work together to figure out who is going to make sure that victims actually do get the information.
One of the things we could do is provide core funding to victim organizations that are actually already doing this work. If we provided better funding to those organizations, they could make sure that victims were getting the information that they need on how to participate in the legal system, how to make sure their voices are heard in our legal system, but also on the very services that might be available to them in the community.
Now chapter 7 deals with the right to the protection of victims' identity and the right to privacy of victims. Again, this is probably one of the most surprising parts of the report. We heard very moving and effective testimony from victims of sexual assault, like Morrell Andrews, who talked about something we did many years ago in our legal system. We set up a system of publication bans so that the identity of victims of sexual assault would not become public.
Over the years our understanding of sexual assault has changed, and many of those victims of sexual assault were surprised to learn that they were subject to a publication ban, that they were not allowed to talk about what had happened to them in any way. Many of those victims of sexual assault also felt the publication ban, by protecting their identity, ended up protecting the identity of the perpetrator.
What we heard quite clearly in the testimony that was before us, and it was very eloquent, very difficult testimony for people to give on their personal assault experiences, was that the current arrangements take away agency from victims of sexual assault.
Therefore, in recommendation 11, the committee has recommended: first, that those who are subject to publication bans need to be informed and consulted before that publication ban is put in place; and second, that they need to have the right to opt out of that publication ban.
Many members know that I have spoken several times in the House about being an adult victim of child sexual assault. The veil of secrecy that was put around me at that time was helpful, but it was most helpful to the perpetrator, who had eight other victims. It would have been quite important for me, though as a minor I probably could not make that decision, for someone to make the decision that it was information the public needed to have. We have heard quite clearly from adult victims of sexual assault that they want their agency back. They want the ability to talk about their experience, they want the ability to warn others and they do not want to be treated as if they are minor children when it comes to the issue of sexual assault.
Those are just a few of the highlights in this report.
When I talk about trying to keep our focus on those recommendations so we can move forward, I want to talk a bit about one step forward that the government has taken as a result of this report.
We have Bill currently in the Senate. The last time I checked two days ago, the Senate justice committee was just about finished its consideration of Bill S-12. It would take recommendation 11 from this report and put it into law. When that recommendation is finished in the Senate, it will come back to the House and we will have the chance, in approving Bill S-12, to give that agency back to victims of sexual assault, to give them the right to know about publication bans before they are imposed and the right to have the ability to opt out of those publication bans.
When I say that focusing on these recommendations is important to make progress, there is a very specific example of the many things that are in this report so that, if we keep the focus on the unanimous support for those recommendations, I believe we will be able to make progress on victims' rights and services for victims.
Again, this is a minority Parliament and often fractious. However, in the justice committee, somehow, on very many issues we have been able to work together to achieve unanimity. The report on improving support for victims of crime is my best example of how Parliament can work, Parliament can be very functional and we can make recommendations that are important to the lives of everyday Canadians.
Mr. Speaker, I came in here this morning expecting to be dealing with Bill . I certainly agree with the recommendations in this report. As my hon. colleague indicated, we should stay very focused on these recommendations but move forward.
The amendment that my colleague moved for in the concurrence report is just another effort to politicize another terrible issue that we are concerned about, injuring the very victims who we are talking about in the recommendations from the Standing Committee on Justice and its recommendations to be more sensitive to the victims. With the amendment that was moved earlier, it is exactly the opposite.
I do want to speak today on this and talk about Bill , which is the government's commitment to victims of crime. I will highlight different parts of Bill S-12, an act to amend the Criminal Code, the Sex Offender Information Registration Act and the International Transfer of Offenders Act.
Bill has three main objectives: first, to respond to the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada last October in R. v. Ndhlovu, which struck down elements of the national sex offender registry; second, to strengthen the effectiveness of the registry; and, third, to empower survivors and victims of crime by changing the rules governing publication bans and a victim's right to information; all three very important.
Today, I want to explain some of the proposed reforms that aim to ensure that the registry continues to be an effective and efficient tool for law enforcement. The RCMP and the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police have lauded Bill , and we are pleased that the legislation would ensure that the police agencies have what they need to do their jobs to better protect victims of crime and to prevent future crimes.
Bill would add to the list of offences that qualify a convicted offender for registration. Of particular note, the bill would add the offence of non-consensual distribution of intimate images to the list. The bill would also target so-called “sextortion” by adding extortion to the list when shown that it has been committed with the intent to commit a sexual crime. This is an important step forward in helping the police identify perpetrators of offences, which are becoming far more prevalent in the digital age with which we are dealing.
The bill also proposes a new arrest power in the Criminal Code to address the issue of non-compliance with registration obligations. Currently, it is estimated that up to 20% of individuals with obligations related to the national sex offender registry are non-compliant. This is not acceptable to any of us as parliamentarians and it is not acceptable to Canadians.
The only legislative mechanism to facilitate compliance with the registry under the current law is to arrest an individual and lay a charge under the Criminal Code. However, laying a distinct charge does not necessarily result in compliance, which is the goal. The bill would create a compliance warrant to allow police to seek arrest warrants to bring non-compliant sex offenders to a registration centre to fulfill their obligations under SOIRA.
Another important change is that the bill would newly require registered sex offenders to provide police with 14 days advance notice prior to travelling, as well as a list of the specific addresses where they will be staying during to course of their travels. This will allow police sufficient time to conduct a risk assessment and to notify appropriate law enforcement partners, if necessary, in accordance with their existing powers under the SOIRA.
Next, I would like to discuss the publication ban and the victims information measures. These are critical steps to respond directly to victims' requests of our justice system, which is much of what the report that we have from the Standing Committee on Justice refers to, to ensure that we are listening to the victims.
Bill proposes publication ban reforms that respond directly to calls from survivors of sexual violence. Victims deserve more agency in the criminal justice process and the ability to tell their own stories if they so choose. They clearly are not being given enough priority and enough opportunities to share their stories.
The various publication ban provisions in the Criminal Code are intended to shield witnesses and victims from further harm by concealing their identity. A publication ban can encourage the testimony of victims and witnesses who may otherwise be fearful of coming forward. As we have heard many times over the last several months about publication bans, people who agreed to them for various reasons actually want them removed. Some survivors and victims of crime have found that publication bans have had the effect of silencing or restricting them. Again, we heard that several times in the last week or so. In fact, I recently saw a news report saying that eight women who were all subject to these publication bans wanted them removed so they would be able to speak about the situation that affected them and use it as an opportunity to educate other people.
Under the current system, we have seen victims convicted of violating a publication ban intended to be for their sole protection and benefit. This is clearly unacceptable. These survivors deserve to share their own stories if they so choose, and it is important that it be their choice and their choice alone, not a condition of some degree of settlement that will restrict them forever. One by one, many of the publication bans being removed are being removed at the request of the victims, at the request of the women who are still suffering as a result of some incident in their lives some years back.
To address this issue, Bill proposes that judges must ask prosecutors to confirm if reasonable steps have been taken to ensure that a victim has been consulted on whether or not a publication ban should be imposed. This proposal is in line with recommendation 11 of the seventh report of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, entitled “Improving Support for Victims of Crime”. In addition, Bill S-12 would clarify the process to modify or revoke a publication ban after one has been imposed by codifying the process that currently exists only in common law, which is to say through judicial decisions.
The bill would also ensure that publication bans are applicable to online material, an area that is of extreme importance to us as we move forward. Our young people are exposed to a tremendous number of things on our Internet systems, and we are having to deal with more and more issues, as young people are seeing and participating in things that they should not be. However, much of this online material may have been published before a ban was imposed.
Both of these measures recognize that victims and survivors should benefit from the right to change their minds. Choice to revoke or modify a publication ban should be dictated by the wishes of the victim or the survivor, not an employer or some other organization. However, the bill proposes that a residual discretion be given to the judge to refuse such a request if it would, for example, possibly identify a second victim involved who wishes to remain anonymous. It is expected that these types of scenarios would be extremely rare and that, for the overwhelming majority of cases, a publication ban would be lifted in cases where the victim clearly does not want it in place.
There is no good or right way to be a victim. This legislation recognizes the choice of victims and survivors and provides them with decision-making power. Returning power to victims and survivors of sexual violence can be essential for the healing process and can prevent retraumatization in the criminal justice process. Recently at the standing committee on women, many individuals were talking about their experiences and how difficult it was, and how little support there was, for them to talk about the issues they were facing.
It is important that we get this right. I suspect that many members have already heard from survivors while working on this issue, as I have. I am sure that many of my colleagues from all sides of the House have listened to and heard from many people, men and women, who have been victims.
Survivors are looking to us to fix the publication ban regime to better empower them and to treat them with dignity and respect. With a publication ban in place, they are not able to speak with anybody about the pain and suffering they went through. Removing the publication ban, which is what Bill is suggesting, would allow them to do that.
I look forward to working with all of my colleagues to ensure that we get this delicate balance right. This is an area that we can review at committee to see if the language can be strengthened further.
I want to take a moment to speak about a victim's right to information about the case of an offender who has harmed them. This right is enshrined in the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights in sections 6, 7 and 8. Bill would make it easier for victims to access information about their case after sentencing or after an accused is found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder.
To achieve this goal, the bill proposes several measures. First, it would require that the judge ask the prosecutor whether they have taken reasonable steps to determine whether the victim wishes to obtain this information. Second, the bill would allow victims to express this interest through their victim impact statement. Finally, the bill would require the court to provide Correctional Service Canada with the victim's name and the information if they have expressed a desire to receive this type of information. It is an extremely important part of this bill to give victims the option if they want to receive this information. Not everyone would want it because very often it revictimizes the victims.
Once again, this approach is respectful of the needs of victims and seeks to provide the flexibility required to obtain the information at a time of their choosing. I note that this proposal received particular attention and support from the federal ombudsperson for victims of crime.
The changes contemplated by this bill would meet an urgent need to make the laws governing the national sex offender registry compliant with the charter. At the same time, it would make the registry better able to accomplish its vital purpose of providing police with current and reliable information to investigate and prevent crimes of a sexual nature. It would also take an opportunity to make the criminal justice system more responsive to survivors and victims of crime, including victims of sexual offences.
These reforms are targeted, measured and sensible. They will make a tangible difference for victims of some of the most serious crimes under our law. They align with our government's firm support for victims of crime. We will never leave victims behind, and we are constantly working to improve our justice system to better accommodate victims.
The report that was tabled this morning, on which concurrence has been moved, is from the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, and it has 13 excellent recommendations very focused on how we can make life better for the victims and how we can better respond to the needs of victims. I look forward to discussing those recommendations as we proceed with the hearing today.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today with great disappointment that, yet again, in the last number of days, the Liberal and his cabinet have let Canadians down in quite a tremendous fashion. They have withheld the truth and they have misled the public. They have made egregious errors and taken no responsibility for them. They are making excuses and blaming everyone but themselves. There has been very little, if any, accountability taken, and meanwhile it is the Canadian people and, certainly, our most vulnerable, who suffer as a result.
As such, the amendment the Conservatives moved today in the House is calling for the immediate resignation of the , given his long track record of misleading the House and the Canadian people, and in particular his latest quite serious failure of leadership and responsibility in a cabinet position that really, beyond many others, needs the public trust, needs a responsible minister and needs to be beyond reproach in this regard, given the magnitude of the files they are responsible for.
For those who have been paying attention, we are talking about the move of, I believe, certainly the most notorious child rapist and killer in Canadian history, Paul Bernardo. He was recently moved, under the 's watch, under the Liberal government's watch, from maximum security to medium security. A man who, I would assume almost all Canadians believe, and rightfully so in my opinion, should rot in prison for the rest of his life has now been moved to a medium-security prison with more privileges. The tale that has come out in the last few hours and days about what the knew and what the knew, or what they are saying their offices knew, and we will get into that, is just deeply concerning and shows that very little responsibility is being taken.
It is now very unclear whether there is anyone in charge at Public Safety, because it does not seem like there is. Because this issue, what this vile killer did, is so sensitive and has really been burnt into the minds of Canadians, for me, it certainly evoked a very emotional response and a lot of anger at the failure of responsibility and leadership from the and certainly from the , which is why we are calling for his resignation today.
It was on June 1, just a few days ago, that Canadians learned that Correctional Service Canada was transferring this vile killer from a segregated section of a maximum-security prison, where he rightfully belongs until his dying days, to a medium-security prison, a more open, campus-style prison, and he certainly does not deserve that, from my perspective and from the perspective of most Canadians.
Particularly women, but I think most of us, are hesitant to have his name glorified in Hansard or talked about. He does not deserve any of that, so from now on I will just be referring to him as the country's most vile serial rapist and killer of children. So that we really know what we are talking about, this is a man who, in the late eighties and early nineties, repeatedly kidnapped; raped; sodomized; tortured, often recording it on video camera; and murdered young women, as young as 14.
I have a colleague who was of a similar age at the time and who lived in Ontario then. She was telling me that, in school, girls of her age were being told to watch out for a white van and to be careful when they were walking home from school. This is something that is burnt into the memory of women of that age, of women generally, and certainly of parents who had children, particularly young girls, at that time.
He is a really horrific man, and obviously there has been tremendous public outrage at the idea, let alone the fact, that this man was moved to a medium-security prison.
Of course, the denied knowing. He came out saying how shocked he was, and it is really frustrating on a number of levels, because we have found, in the last couple of days, that perhaps that is not true at all. It is very well a strong possibility that he did know and failed to act and that the knew and failed to act on this, that they both failed to stop it in any way that they could. The Globe and Mail really outlined this well. I will just quote an article:
The Public Safety Minister invoked the wrath of Parliament and the anger of the families of the victims of Mr. Bernardo on Wednesday after CBC News reported that his office had been told that [this man] would be transferred to a lower-security prison in March. He told the House of Commons [just yesterday] that his office didn’t brief him before the prison transfer happened.
How convenient it is that it did not brief him. We also found out in that same Globe and Mail story, which, I believe, was by Robert Fife and Steven Chase, that the 's Office was also alerted months prior to the transfer, and that was confirmed by a Prime Minister's Office spokesperson. They are not even denying it, so I will give them that tiny bit of credit for at least not denying it, though certainly they were not forthcoming in the last number of days that this had broken into public knowledge. As the Globe pointed out, this significantly widens the group of staff, and likely their bosses, the politicians, who knew about this and yet did nothing about it until, oops, the public found out. Now there is shock and disappointment from our elected officials who have been entrusted with public safety and with ensuring that justice is served with respect to the most vile killers in our history. It has not been.
When all this was coming out, I really looked at it with disbelief. How many times are the Liberal ministers and the going to get away with saying, “Oh, I didn't know”, “I wasn't briefed”, “My staff didn't tell me” or saying that the agencies, CSIS and the RCMP, did not let them know and that the information did not quite get to the elected officials? How many times do we have to hear that, as Canadians or as opposition critics? How many times do we have to believe that and just move on like nothing happened?
We have seen this time and time again. With election interference from Beijing, we heard that they just were not quite briefed or that no one picked up the phone and called the former minister of public safety to tell him that my colleague, the member for , was being threatened by Beijing and that his family was at risk. They said that CSIS wanted to tell him but had not quite done so, or that his staff had not. It is just a bunch of baloney.
Once, maybe, we would believe them, but two times, five times or 10 times, time and time again on issues of national security and public safety, are we expected to believe them? I do not think so. Enough is enough. We need to have the resignation of somebody in this place. There needs to be some accountability. There needs to be some responsibility taken for the absolute failure to govern.
It is really embarrassing, honestly, to be represented by ministers who take no accountability and responsibility for some of the most critical issues in this country. I want to be clear about why people are so outraged. We have maximum security and medium security. I just want to make it clear why Liberals should have been outraged and moved mountains to stop it, and should certainly have brought forward legislation by now to stop this, but they have not, and I will get into that later.
This individual, when he was in maximum-security prison, had very limited movement. He was heavily segregated. He had very little association with anyone. He had very, very few privileges, and rightfully so. He deserves to be punished for the rest of his life. Maximum-security prison is where he has been for almost 29 years, I believe. Now that he has been moved, under the watch of the and the , who knew for three months, into a medium-security prison, he gets to talk to more people; he gets to walk around more and he has many fewer restrictions on him. He does not deserve that. I think everyone agrees, yet here we are; it happened and they could have stopped it. They knew it was coming for three months before it happened.
If someone makes a mistake, that is fine, and if it is the first time, then maybe I would believe them. It is not the first time, but they did not know and were not informed; let us pretend we believe them for one moment. Why is it, then, that they have not brought forward concrete solutions so this never happens again? They have a working majority in the House with the NPD's support. They could have brought forward legislation to signal to Canadians that they will never allow this to happen under their watch, but they have not done so.
Every effort by the Conservatives to move motions to stop this from happening again is shouted down by the Liberals. We have also introduced a bill, a private member's bill from the member for , and I seconded that bill, that would make sure this never happens again. The Liberals say that it is out of their hands, that they cannot really do anything about it and that the is sort of tinkering around the edges now. However, is that really true? I looked at the legislation, and I am seeing a bit of pattern of a soft-on-crime, soft-on-criminals and forget-about-the-victims approach from the public safety minister, the and the .
If we look at, for example, the Liberals' Bill , it was adopted in 2019 and created a standard in section 28 of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, and this is important, that required prisoner selection to be made by the commissioner of corrections based on “the least restrictive environment for that person”. That was legislation they passed in 2019. Their bail reform, their soft-on-crime bail reform bill, was also passed that year.
There was a lot of damage done to Canadians in that short time, in favour of criminals at the expense of victims. This is just another one of those bills. In Bill , the “least restrictive environment” for criminals in prison was the standard put forward.
Now what do we have? We have the “least restrictive environment” for the country's most vile serial killer and rapist of children. This is happening, in part, through the legislation that the Liberals put forward. They have created an environment where this is the case. I will say “the least restrictive environment” over and over, because that was the exact intention of their legislation.
In fact, the Liberals repealed a previous Conservative standard that was put in under former prime minister Stephen Harper's government, where it said “necessary restrictions” for criminals and vile killers. In 2019, these guys brought in bail reform and the “least restrictive environment” for those criminals in jail. Now we have that. The mission is fulfilled for the most vile killer in the country.
When the Liberals say that they cannot really do anything about it and that it is an independent decision, they can do something about it. They could repeal this section or probably the entire bill, Bill . If it is anything like this, the whole thing should go in the garbage, but certainly this section. They could have brought forward a bill already, so that it does not happen again. It has been weeks already.
However, again, this was the objective, that the worst people who go to prison in this country get the “least restrictive environment”. When they say that they cannot do anything about it, people should not buy it. That is not true.
Yesterday, my colleague, the member for , brought forward a private member's bill, Bill , that would keep dangerous offenders, like this individual, in maximum-security prisons. It would replace that legal standard that I just talked about, going from the “least restrictive environment” to “necessary and appropriate restrictions”. It is very measured, very responsible and certainly in line, I think, with Canadian values on things like this.
Second, it also requires that inmates like this individual, who are designated by the courts as “dangerous offenders,” which this individual is, have their sentences made indeterminate, with no fixed length. Certainly, this would include people who have committed multiple personal injury offences and are considered so dangerous to the public, individuals like the one we have been talking about today or those who have been convicted of more than one first-degree murder resulting in a life sentence.
It is very clear. Guys like this should always be in maximum security. That is what a Conservative government would do. I honestly think that the private member's bill is fair, measured and should be adopted unanimously by all parties, especially in light of what has recently happened.
Let us now just really drill into the failure of the to take responsibility on this and to try to stop it before it ever happened. Again, this guy is in a medium-security prison, getting to walk around and getting rewarded. He should not be there. He should have been stopped, and yet the minister failed to do this.
I am just going to read this, from the Correctional Service of Canada. The statement it put out said, “The March 2 e-mail contained information notifying them [the public safety minister's office] of the transfer, along with communications messaging to support this.”
That was from Correctional Service of Canada spokesperson Kevin Antonucci in a statement made on Wednesday. He added that in March, three months ago, the final date for the transfer had not been determined. Therefore, the 's office also received an email on May 25 with updated communications messaging, as well as the fact that the transfer would occur on Monday, May 29.
If we read between the lines of what Kevin Antonucci said, the Correctional Service of Canada is really doing the lion's share of the work here, saying that it sent the message and notified the 's office that the transfer could be stopped. They are not doing the minister any favours. They are saying that they told him and that they told him twice, and nothing.
We also found out, just last night, as I mentioned, that the Prime Minister's Office was also informed. I will read from the Globe: “A separate statement from the minister's office late on Wednesday suggested that when [the Minister of Public Safety's] team found out about the transfer on March 2, the Prime Minister's Office was already aware of the matter.”
It went on to say, “When a staff member in the Prime Minister's Office was alerted in March by the Privy Council Office about the possibility of the transfer, inquiries and requests for information were immediately made to the Public Safety Minister's Office”.
When the PMO was told, it immediately reached out to the 's office and asked what was going on. The Minister of Public Safety still had no idea this was going on, and he had no idea the Prime Minister's office was reaching out to his office for information. It is a bit hard to believe. There are only a few options there. The minister is so hands-off that he has no idea what is going on in his file in any regard, he knowingly ignored this or he knew and he has been misleading the public and the House. That is very difficult to believe.
Given the 's track record, which I am going to go into, I think it is the latter. What is really interesting in what we are seeing from the statements from the Prime Minister's Office and the public safety minister's office is that the blame game is starting. Fingers are being pointed at each other in public statements to The Globe and Mail. That is how desperate they are to deflect blame. No one wants to take responsibility here. It is very embarrassing.
Therefore, I am just going to go through the pattern of behaviour that, unfortunately, the has shown in recent months. This is just within the last year.
In January 2022, and we all remember this, the said he relied on the advice of law enforcement to trigger the Emergencies Act. You remember that, Mr. Speaker. However, we later found out from both the RCMP commissioner and the chief of the Ottawa police, when they testified publicly, that they did not ask the government to invoke the act. That was a big one. The minister misled the public in a big way. We will say that it was a large falsehood in that regard of a never-before-invoked, in essence, war measures act that he misled the public about. It was very significant, and he should have resigned then.
Then, on October 12, 2022, he was accused of misleading a federal judge after his office backdated government documents on trademark infringements. The said that the legislation concerning this came into effect two weeks earlier than it actually did, so he literally backdated legal documents. The minister said this was just human error. There is a pattern emerging here.
On August 8, the admitted at a committee that the RCMP was using spyware to gain information on Canadians, but he promised that the technology was being used sparingly. I am making light of it, but it is just so utterly ridiculous at this point. I am only three points in; we have five to go.
On January 15, the said that the safe third country agreement was working, despite enormous increases in irregular border crossers in comparison to the previous five years, and that really nothing could be done about it. Then, two months later, Biden and the of Canada came together in agreement to close Roxham Road. They were not telling the truth there.
Again, on April 25 of this year, he claimed that his legislation would not impact hunting rifles. We know how that went. Of course it did, and so much so that he had to back down. He has permanently lost the trust of firearms owners and hunters in this country, and he will never get it back because of how much he misled the public.
On May 5, the said he did not read the report into the People's Republic of China targeting an MP in our caucus. He later said that he was investigating why the report was not passed up to him. How many times are we going to have to believe that?
On May 14, after saying that the PRC police stations operating in Canada were closed, we found out that this is not the case either.
Finally, there is what we have been talking about today. The said he had no idea. Despite two contacts from Correctional Service Canada to his office and despite the Prime Minister's Office reaching out to him, the minister is saying he was never told about it. However, he has fired no one for that, which tells me that it is not true. If someone's staff members have failed them so badly, obviously, they cannot be trusted with the public safety file, and they have to go. The minister has fired no one. He is the one who should be fired. The buck stops with him.
What we have been calling on is the following:
...that the Minister of Public Safety immediately resign given his total lack of consideration for victims of crime in his mishandling of the transfer to more cozy arrangements of one of the worst serial killers in Canadian history, that this unacceptable move has shocked the public and created new trauma for the families of the victims and that the Minister of Public Safety's office knew about this for three months prior to [this vile killer's] transfer and instead of halting it, the information was hidden from the families.
That is what we moved today.
I will just conclude that this is about ministerial accountability. We have not seen that in the current Liberal government, despite so many failures. So many times, the government has misled the public and failed to take responsibility. Ministerial accountability seems to be dead in this country under the Liberal government.
Ultimately, I will say in conclusion that the Minister of Public Safety, more than most ministers, requires the public to trust him or her. The needs public trust; however, as I outlined today, in very real time, he has misled the public, let them down and broken that trust time and time again. This is the final straw. Unfortunately, it is time for him to resign.
Mr. Speaker, I am disappointed to be speaking to the travesty of justice and human rights committed by our current . I am disappointed, but to be honest, I am not surprised. This minister has a track record of mishandling files, which is ultimately a disservice to justice in this country and to victims. This is why we are debating the amendment put forward by the Conservative Party today, ultimately recommending that the minister resign.
Just so it is clear and on the record once again, our amendment to the motion includes:
the Seventh Report of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, presented on Monday, April 17, 2023, be not now concurred in, but that it be recommitted to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights with instruction that it amend the same so as to recommend that the Minister of Public Safety immediately resign given his total lack of consideration for victims of crime in his mishandling of the transfer to more cozy arrangements of one of the worst serial killers in Canadian history, that this unacceptable move has shocked the public and created new trauma for the families of the victims and that the Minister of Public Safety's office knew about this for three months prior to Paul Bernardo's transfer and instead of halting it, the information was hidden from the families.
Obviously, I have made some very provocative statements, even in my opening couple of sentences, but I want to lay the groundwork for why I believe this. Let us go back to the 's track record back in August 2021, when he was the minister of immigration. What happened then? We had the fall of Kabul. We had the fall of Afghanistan.
Instead of the government dealing with that situation with the ministers of foreign affairs, immigration and national defence primarily focused on helping victims, the Afghans who had helped Canada, get to safety, what did they do? They called an election. It is unacceptable.
This here was in that seat. He could have had a process in place, much like we have done in previous years, under the current and previous governments, so that, when we have a situation around the globe in which Canada could make a difference by allowing refugees and people at risk to get to Canada, we could do it.
This is so fundamentally important and unfortunately something that the government is still not putting the adequate priority and focus on. It is allowing bureaucracy and staff to interfere with getting the job done. That is just one thing. That is the 's background right off the get-go.
He has now been the since that last election. What did we see just in the last year alone on Bill ? Again, we saw a minister who is not focused on victims and justice but is instead focused on law-abiding hunters, sport shooters and farmers, despite him saying that, no, this was not what the bill was about. Lo and behold, there was a last-minute amendment put forth by the minister that exactly targeted the thousands and thousand of hunters, sport shooters and farmers across the country.
That bill was not focused on addressing the root causes of the justice issues that allow for criminals, mass murderers, rapists, gangs, drug trafficking, etc. It was focused again on the wrong demographic.
I am just using that to set the stage. We are now dealing with an amendment because we now have evidence that the and his office were aware three months prior to the general public becoming aware that Paul Bernardo, one of our most horrific serial killer and rapists, was being transferred out of a maximum security prison into a medium security prison.
I want to set the stage because we are all victims of our life experiences. We live in a Westminster system of government that allows our democracy to work on a day-to-day basis because it is all about ministerial accountability. The buck stops with them.
As for my comments on life experiences, as many members know, I come from a military background. There is a misperception out there that the military is all about following orders. That is not the case at all and is not how the military functions. Forming a plan begins from the ground up, from the lowest levels all the way to the highest levels, enabling the decision-makers to make the best decisions possible.
When I served at the higher levels, whether as a chief of staff or a director, and we were planning for stuff and doing things, there was one common theme, and that was the daily briefs. It did not matter if it was on operations overseas or here at our Canadian Joint Operations Command, there were daily briefs and the staff's primary role was to flag issues of concern directly to the decision-makers, the commanders and people who are ultimately responsible for making decisions and providing guidance and direction. This was not being blocked by the gatekeepers or the staff, and it was brought to the person in charge. That is key to the way our whole democracy works.
Members do not have to take my word for it. There was a CBC report that basically broke this news. I am going to read a bit from a CBC article that was just released, which states:
The demand for [the Minister of Public Safety’s] exit was prompted by the CBC's report that staff in the minister's office were aware of Paul Bernardo's pending transfer as far back as March 2. Subsequent reporting confirmed that the Prime Minister's Office was also made aware in March and [the Prime Minister] was himself briefed on the transfer on May 29.
According to the version of events, the minister's staff obviously did not think it was necessary to tell him about the transfer of one of Canada's most notorious murderers until May 30, a day after the move was made, and a day after the himself was briefed. The fact that they neglected to alert the minister about this impending transfer is puzzling in and of itself, and obviously an apparent failure at keeping him informed. However, what is more interesting is that the minister himself described it as a shocking event. How could he be so shocked when this was something his staff should have informed him of three months prior?
The minister initially said it was the Correctional Service of Canada that did it, but he has now admitted that the information flowed in, he was not briefed, and could not have really done anything about it. Lo and behold, what has he done now? He has issued a new directive stipulating that he must be informed, something he should have done immediately. That is just common practice.
Therefore, the issue I come back to is this: The minister needs to surround himself with competent staff and people who understand what is truly an important issue under his responsibility because that is how we protect our justice system and victims in this country. Ultimately, the minister needs to do the honourable thing and resign because that is truly the only option left. If he will not resign, the should fire him.
Another thing the government should do is immediately implement the private member's motion that was put forward by the Conservative member for , which enshrines into legislation, and I am paraphrasing, that when our most notorious murderers and criminals are found guilty, they must remain in a maximum-security prison.