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View Joël Lightbound Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Joël Lightbound Profile
2020-02-04 10:41 [p.871]
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 Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles 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 Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles 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.
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