Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to join in the debate today on this very important subject in the motion before us.
I want to recognize the excellent work of my colleague from Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles. I know he works very hard on a wide range of public safety issues and he has played a key role in bringing this issue to the attention of Canadians and colleagues for an effective response to this tragic situation.
I will start by going over what we are talking about and then identify what the key issues for us as a Parliament are to grapple with coming out of this case.
The case is that Mr. Gallese was serving a sentence for murder. He was considered at risk of reoffending, but he was still released on day parole. In the context of that parole, he was given permission to have contact with women, but only for sex. He murdered a woman, Marylène Levesque, who herself was a victim of prostitution. She was murdered while Mr. Gallese was on day parole.
It is fairly obvious to anyone approaching this case that the Parole Board made a terrible decision and a woman died as a result of that decision. We are now having a debate in Parliament about what we can do specifically around reviewing and responding to this case and, in particular, trying to restore public confidence in the Parole Board's process.
We expect the Parole Board to make difficult, finely tuned decisions in response to the situations that are in front of it. Declaring that someone is not at risk of reoffending, if someone has been effectively rehabilitated, then it is in the public interest for that person to be released and reintegrated in society. However, if people remain a risk of reoffending, if there is a risk to people in society of them being out or if there are specific conditions that need to be imposed on them when they are released to ensure they are not a risk to other people, then the Parole Board needs to be aware of that and impose those conditions.
All of us entrust our safety and the safety of our families to the hopefully expert people who are part of these Parole Board hearings. We need this process and we need to be able to trust and have confidence in this process. We need to know that the people who serve on the Parole Board are able to consider the evidence, consider the information and make good decisions. That means they have the required amount of experience, background, qualifications, etc.
When we confront a decision that was made by the Parole Board that was clearly very bad, the implication is that this criminal was being advised to engage in criminal activity, that is the purchasing of sex, that part of his release plan involved a direct admonition to or an implied direction to commit criminal activity. As a result of this failure by the Parole Board, a woman lost her life.
If we are to talk about the Parole Board and how to address these issues, we have to hold the government accountable for the appointment decisions it makes. The government was not directly responsible for this decision, but it was responsible for the process and the appointments to the Parole Board that led to this decision being made.
When we talk about how the Liberals arrived at the appointment decisions, did they make decisions about Parole Board appointees that, all things considered, anyone would have made under the same circumstances, or did they fail to consider important factors? Did they make decisions that were not in the public interest in the context of appointments that led to this decision?
Personnel is policy as we all know as members of Parliament. The Liberals' decision to appoint certain individuals and to have a certain appointment process led to a policy, which was the release of someone who should not have been released, especially with direction and in the context where women would be put at risk.
It has been interesting in the context of the debate that has happened so far today, the discussion about the Parole Board's process and the appointments. Certainly on our side of the House, we have suggested that part of the problem is in the changes the government made to appointments. A couple of years ago, the Liberals made the decision to not reappoint the vast majority of the people on Quebec's Parole Board, who were experienced, and instead appoint 14 out of 16 brand new members to that board.
The government established the conditions in which we had a Parole Board that was lacking in experience. We have challenged them on that. This was a boneheaded decision that resulted in somebody losing their life, and it followed a decision by the government to change the appointment process dramatically, removing experienced people and replacing them with inexperienced people. Maybe we should consider the role that the changes in the appointment process played in the tragic outcome.
The government's response has been to trumpet the alleged greatness of its appointment process. It has said it brought in an open and transparent process, based on merit, increasing diversity, and that it is great, better than the previous system, which was all about appointing, allegedly, partisan hacks to these positions.
I would say any evaluation of the merit of an appointment should consider the quality of the work and the decisions that are made, in other words, the government might profess to have brought in a great appointment system but we can only evaluate the quality of that appointment system by the outcome of that appointment system, namely, did the people appointed to the Parole Board make decisions that were in the public interest?
The government's decision to replace experienced people with inexperienced on the Parole Board, and that being followed by the decision that we had here, suggests that the government was not as effective at identifying merit in appointments as it claims to be. It suggests that perhaps there were other things going on.
I would respectfully encourage the government to approach this with a little humility, not to say, out of the gate, that everything is fine with the appointments process, but to actually acknowledge that, following a bad decision of the Parole Board, a person being killed, maybe it needs to go back and ask if it made sense to replace the entire Parole Board. The outcome of the appointments the government makes should be the basis on which we evaluate the quality of those appointments.
The other point that the government has made in the context of the appointment process is that it is about diversity, that it wants to make these organizations more diverse and maybe that is the justification for not reappointing people who were there before, to try to make these organizations more diverse.
I would say that kind of rhetoric actually does a great disservice to the genuine importance of making our public organizations more diverse. On this side of the House, we agree in the importance of having diversity in public appointments. When that is used as an excuse, when that is the rhetorical basis for appointing 14 of 16 people to this board who did not have the experience, and the result of that being this bad decision, again, I think a little more introspection of the policies and processes is needed.
What we are calling for as a result of this situation, in this motion, is:
That the House: (a) condemn the decision of the Parole Board of Canada.
Again, when the Parole Board is sending the message to somebody who is being released that they should go and commit illegal activity, namely purchasing sex, it should be fairly obvious that there were many problems in the process of that person being released and the instruction they were given.
Any expert, anybody who had spent substantial time working on these issues, would tell us that telling a person who had a history of violence against women to interact with women in this context was the kind of advice that really lacked any kind of wisdom, knowledge or experience. It lacked a connection with the kind of evidence-based policy-making that we would expect in this place.
The motion starts by condemning the decision of the Parole Board, and then it instructs the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security to conduct hearings into this matter, and particularly to look at the issue of the nomination process. The idea being then, as our motion states, “to recommend measures to be taken to ensure another tragedy such as this never happens again.”
Part of it is the government needs to do much better in the area of appointments. Maybe the government wants to throw out people who were appointed previously and be able to appoint their own people, but when, after these appointment changes, a person loses their life, the government needs to be held accountable for those appointment decisions.
We, as an opposition, call on the government to do much better in the future.