Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak to the Conservative motion by my hon. colleague from Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles.
The motion denounces the decision made by the Parole Board in Quebec that cost the life of a 22-year-old woman at the hands of a dangerous repeat offender. It seeks immediate action to review Parole Board nominations that contributed to putting a dangerous offender on the streets, and to have Parliament recommend steps so that this will never happen again.
Given the recent comments by the Minister of Public Safety on finding common ground with all parties to protect Canadians, I would think that he would be supportive of our motion. I imagine every member of the House will condemn the murder of a young woman by a man who beat his previous partner to death with a hammer, and who was released on parole with permission to seek out women in order to manage his sexual needs.
As one columnist noted, it appears the Parole Board's release plan assumed this offender's right to access a woman's body. Any man who cannot control his urges is not fit to be released back into society. Our country is founded on freedom and respect: respect for one another, respect for the law and respect for our values. In this case, the Parole Board's decision is reprehensible.
I will not pretend that this entire problem is the fault of the Liberal government or of any single previous government or decision. The problem we face is a parole and release system that favours offenders over victims. It puts the rights of offenders ahead of the safety of our communities.
This is a result of the current government's inaction, as well as previous governments' actions or inactions, court rulings and court precedents. None of that should prevent the House from challenging the status quo and moving toward a better system of preventing the release of those who are not ready to be law-abiding members of our society.
Let me be clear. We are not talking about anyone who has ever gone to jail. We are not saying that if people have done something wrong, as we all have at some point to different degrees, there is no redemption. I believe in redemption.
For those who have committed crimes, we lay out very clear ideas of what that looks like based on their efforts to reform, to rehabilitate, to seek to address their failings or challenges, to train and educate themselves for a post-release period and to never again be in trouble with the law. However, there have been too many instances like this one. There have been too many recent decisions by Liberal-appointed Parole Board members to release repeat dangerous offenders back into our communities without the adequate protections and information. That lack of accountability and of good, sound decision-making is why the House urgently needs to review and revise how it treats violent offenders.
Dangerous offenders are deemed by the courts. They are held for indeterminate prison sentences because of the malicious repeat offences they have carried out. Dangerous offenders have a pattern of behaviour and persistent aggression that makes them a threat to others.
It is not up to society to accept dangerous offenders. It is up to those dangerous offenders to accept the laws and values of our society in order to be released. However, the Liberal government seems too eager to defend the rights of dangerous offenders and others who are brought before the courts. Dangerous offenders get off too easily under the Liberal government.
Under Bill C-75, in order to address court backlogs, the Liberals reduced sentences and allowed sentences for more violent crimes to be reduced, even to fines. Under Bill C-71, Liberals went after law-abiding firearms owners for the actions of criminals and gangs. In national security laws, they increased red tape, put more effort into watching the public servants who defend Canadians and put less effort into monitoring known radicalized threats, returning ISIS terrorists and foreign threats.
Two years ago, we went through a very similar scenario. Canadians were outraged when Terri-Lynne McClintic, a woman who helped lure, assault, rape and murder eight-year-old Tori Stafford, was transferred to a lower-security healing lodge instead of staying in prison. The indigenous community not far from my riding did not want her there, as she was not indigenous. This raised many questions as to why she was being transferred in the first place. No child predator should ever be sent to a prison where children and families are present.
The Liberals said nothing was wrong, launched a months-long investigation and then determined that they were wrong. They slapped a minor edit on their policies and said everything was fine and would be fine. If the policies were applied properly the first time, that transfer never would have happened.
The offender at the centre of the tragedy is a violent, dangerous offender, whether the law puts that label on him or not. The Parole Board and the minister should have known and should have had the processes in place to prevent this latest tragedy. However, there is no accountability left for the minister or government. Did the Parole Board fail in its duty to Canadians in this circumstance? Yes, it did. Was it likely that former minister Ralph Goodale's decision to appoint fresh and untrained people in the position to make these decisions a factor? It certainly appears that way.
Under the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, the purpose of conditional release is to contribute to the maintenance of a just, peaceful and safe society that will best facilitate the rehabilitation of offenders and their reintegration into the community as law-abiding citizens. The act specifically notes that the paramount consideration by the Parole Board is public safety protection. The release of offenders who are deemed unable to stop themselves from harming others, who pose a risk to women or who have been instructed to break the law by hiring women for sex can in no way live up to the standards set out in law.
Even if there was some justification for a dangerous, violent offender to be released, parole officers are overwhelmed with workloads. According to their union, workloads are insurmountable and there is a real risk to Canadians because they cannot keep tabs on parolees. With the Liberals releasing many dangerous offenders into the community, this issue is being compounded.
For example, Madilyn Harks, formerly known as Matthew Ralf Harks, is a serial rapist who has preyed on young women, with three convictions for sexual assault against girls under the age of eight. She was released into Brampton, one of the largest suburbs in Canada, despite posing a risk to the tens of thousands of children in that community. After public outrage and political pressure on local Liberal MPs, she was removed. Was she a risk to Canadians? Absolutely. Was she placed in a poorly chosen spot? Absolutely. It was only fixed, though, after political and public outrage.
Randall Hopley, a serial child predator, was released into Vancouver despite the Parole Board stating that it was unable to manage his risks to Canadian children. Peter Whitmore, who has many convictions for assaulting young boys, has repeatedly received light sentences for the rape and assault of children. After abducting two boys, tying them up and raping them, he has been locked up again. However, he is now eligible for parole, and it would seem only a matter of time before the Liberal's Parole Board will release him again, if we can believe it. There are many examples like this, more than time allows to mention here.
None of these crimes needed to happen and none of these victims needed to be put at risk and victimized. However, we can all agree that we presume innocence and that the taking away of freedoms under the Criminal Code should not be treated lightly. There are times when it is clearly the best and only course of action. The actions of the guilty are the fault of the guilty. There is no right to cause pain, harm and suffering to others. When the Parole Board sees a threat that is not manageable, there needs to be a mechanism to ensure that Canadians are not put at further risk. We do not need to accept the decisions of murderers, rapists, pedophiles or repeat and serial offenders as a foregone conclusion. However, once people have reached that state, it is incumbent upon them to show and act in a manner that enables their release, not the other way around. It is not beholden on Canadians to accept their intolerable and hateful acts. Criminals are not the victims.
In conclusion, my colleague's motion is justified in light of the many issues facing our communities. Public safety has been put on the back burner time and again by the government and its political manoeuvring. Reforming how we manage dangerous offenders would seem something that all parliamentarians can get behind and can contribute toward protecting Canadians.
However, I suspect that the Liberals will invent yet another excuse why action is not needed right now. They will respond by saying that they have an internal inquiry under way, a response we have heard many times. However, there is an inherit bias to defend the system by those in charge of making those very decisions. Another McClintic-style “sweep it under the rug” decision should not be tolerated.
It is time that other members of Parliament took the role that the minister is too timid to tackle. I encourage my colleagues to vote in favour of a study to strengthen and review the parole system, ensure the appropriate funding is in place and that the safety of Canadians comes ahead of any Liberal political concerns.