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Results: 1 - 9 of 9
View Peter MacKay Profile
CPC (NS)
View Peter MacKay Profile
2015-06-18 16:04 [p.15307]
moved that Bill C-53, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
View Sean Casey Profile
Lib. (PE)
View Sean Casey Profile
2015-06-18 16:44 [p.15311]
Mr. Speaker, my question is along the same vein. There are serious problems with this bill, but the most glaring one is the one which was just pointed out by the member for Gatineau, and that is the politicization of the question of release of the worst of the worst offenders.
The parliamentary secretary was there when we had representatives from the Parole Board testify in connection with a private member's bill that has the same objective as this piece of government legislation and he will recall the testimony from the representatives of the Parole Board.
What is it about these very serious crimes that make the Parole Board so uniquely unqualified to determine the parole eligibility and conditions of those who are charged with them, so uniquely unqualified that it must be placed in the hands of an elected official? Also, what is it about the education, training and experience of the Minister of Public Safety as a professional engineer that makes him so uniquely qualified to stand in judgment in these cases?
View Sean Casey Profile
Lib. (PE)
View Sean Casey Profile
2015-06-18 17:15 [p.15315]
Mr. Speaker, as always, my colleague from the justice committee, the member for Gatineau, gave us a very comprehensive review and critique of the legislation. Over here, we find ourselves in agreement with virtually all of the points she made, and that is indeed quite a common occurrence at committee, I am pleased to say.
There are two particular questions that I wish to pose.
The first is that one of the stated goals of this legislation is to minimize the trauma to victims of having to constantly go back to parole hearings when someone who has committed a terrible crime is eligible or is up for eligibility consideration. Surely the member would agree that this is a legitimate goal. I think we can concede that. However, are there other modes of minimizing the stress on the families of victims other than this one, that she could propose?
Also, unless I missed it, I do not think she spent much time talking about the constitutionality of the legislation. It is obviously constitutionally suspect, as we have seen over and over again, with millions of dollars wasted on legal fees trying to defend charter violations. Her comments with respect to the constitutional validity of the legislation would also be of some value.
View Sean Casey Profile
Lib. (PE)
View Sean Casey Profile
2015-06-18 17:23 [p.15316]
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak on Bill C-53, the lock-them-up-and-throw-away-the-key act. It is the life means life act. This bill would eliminate the possibility of parole for many of the most serious crimes, including many forms of first degree murder and high treason.
The stated purpose of the bill is to reduce trauma to victims' families by avoiding unnecessary and repeated parole hearings. That is a worthy objective, and the Liberals supported legislation to further that goal just a few weeks ago with Bill C-587, the respecting families of murdered and brutalized persons act. As members will recall, that bill would extend parole ineligibility to 40 years from 25 years for a limited class of particularly brutal crimes.
However, while we agree with the objective of reducing trauma to victims and the approach taken by Bill C-587, we will not support the life means life act. Liberals are open to exploring additional ways of reducing trauma to victims. For example, we would consider extending parole ineligibility to longer than 25 years for some of the crimes covered by Bill C-53, just as we supported consecutive periods of parole ineligibility for multiple murders. As members know, that change resulted in Travis Baumgartner receiving 40 years of parole ineligibility for murdering three of his coworkers at an armoured car company. It also resulted in Justin Bourque receiving 75 years of parole ineligibility for murdering three RCMP officers in Moncton.
The crimes covered by Bill C-53 are terrible. That is why they are punished harshly under Canadian law. However, the primary reason we will not support this bill is that it would replace the Parole Board with the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness. Ministers are inherently concerned with making political decisions. That is a step backward and an affront to the rule of law. It is also probably unconstitutional. I will explain why that is the case later on.
First let us go over the contents of the life means life act.
Bill C-53 would amend the Criminal Code to require imprisonment for life without eligibility for parole for specific types of murder convictions, as well for high treason, provided that the offender is 18 or older. The types of murder convictions that require such a sentence must be planned and deliberate murders in which the victim is a law enforcement officer, a member of correctional staff, or a person working in a prison; the accused caused the death while committing or attempting to commit aircraft hijacking, various types of sexual assault, kidnapping, forcible confinement, or hostage taking; the accused caused the death while committing or attempting to commit a terrorist act; or the accused's behaviour associated with the offence was of such a brutal nature as to compel the conclusion that the accused's behaviour in the future is unlikely to be inhibited by normal standards of behavioural constraint.
Under Bill C-53, a conviction for high treason would also require the imposition of a life sentence without eligibility for parole. High treason comprises attacking the Queen, waging war against Canada, or assisting an enemy engaged in hostilities with the Canadian Forces.
Bill C-53 would also create a discretionary judicial power to order imprisonment for life without eligibility for parole for three types of offenders.
First are persons convicted of second degree murder who have previously been convicted of murder. Second are persons convicted of second degree murder who have previously been convicted of genocide, a crime against humanity, or a war crime. Third are any persons convicted of first degree murder.
The use of this discretionary judicial power would require a prosecutorial application and consideration of the offender's age and character, the nature of the offence and its circumstances, and the jury's recommendation on parole eligibility.
In addition, Bill C-53 would amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act to allow offenders serving life without eligibility for parole to apply to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness for executive release by the Governor in Council after serving 35 years of their sentence. Offenders may reapply after five years if their application is unsuccessful. Offenders granted executive release would become subject to the Parole Board's authority, including termination or revocation of the release and the imposition of conditions.
As I said, Liberals are amenable to 35 or 40 years of ineligibility for the crimes covered in this bill, as we indicated in our support for Bill C-587. That increase could make a meaningful difference for victims' families. However, we take issue with who the government proposes should be making decisions after that time period.
In addition to the changes I have already noted, Bill C-53 would amend the National Defence Act to require imprisonment for life without eligibility for parole for the following offences: traitorous misconduct by a commanding officer in the presence of an enemy; traitorous misconduct by any person in the presence of an enemy; traitorous compromise of security; high treason; and murder of the same types captured in the Criminal Code amendments.
This bill would also create military judicial discretion to impose imprisonment without eligibility for parole in the same circumstances as in the civilian domain. As well, Bill C-53 would amend the International Transfer of Offenders Act to allow imprisonment for life without eligibility for parole when, in the opinion of the Minister of Public Safety, documents supplied by a foreign entity show that the offender would have been convicted of a murder offence listed in the first paragraph, with the exception of the brutal nature provision.
I want to flag this last change as being particularly problematic, since it would allow the Minister of Public Safety to impose life sentences without parole eligibility based on evidence supplied by foreign entities. That would allow potentially tainted or fabricated evidence to produce life sentences without parole eligibility in Canada. States with some of the worst justice systems in the world could provide admissible evidence.
It is important to understand how all of the changes in Bill C-53 would alter the status quo. Currently all murder convictions carry mandatory life sentences in Canada. All of the specific types of murder that require parole ineligibility for life under Bill C-53 support convictions for first degree murder, which carry 25 years of parole ineligibility. A conviction for high treason would also carry a mandatory life sentence with 25 years of parole ineligibility.
For an offender serving a life sentence, day parole would become a possibility after 22 years and full parole would become possible after 25 years. On application, the Parole Board must review unsuccessful day parole applications every year and unsuccessful full parole applications every two years.
Of relevance, under a 2011 law that Liberals supported, offenders can now receive consecutive periods of parole ineligibility for multiple murders. As I mentioned, two offenders have been sentenced under that law to 40 years and 75 years of parole ineligibility respectively.
Under the current law, offenders may also be designated as dangerous offenders, meaning they may receive indeterminate sentences, subject to periodic review.
I want to focus in on the fact that this bill would grant the Minister of Public Safety, an elected politician, the discretion to release prisoners, a function currently carried out by the Parole Board. Any minister of public safety would be subject to self-interest and political pressure from constituents, the party, and especially the Prime Minister. This conflict of interest could unduly affect decisions on prisoner release and act contrary to the interests of justice.
When Canadians reflect on the matter, I do not think they would support the idea of the Prime Minister personally deciding on which prisoners to release. That is rightly the job of the Parole Board. Political considerations should not enter into these sorts of decisions. That, of course, is the reason we do not elect judges in Canada.
I am not sure why the government views the Parole Board as not being up to doing its job. When evidence was given on Bill C-587, I had a chance to ask Ms. Suzanne Brisebois of the Parole Board about its functioning. I asked her, “To whom is the Parole Board of Canada accountable?” Her response was as follows:
Our board is an independent administrative tribunal. There's a very rigorous competitive process that prospective board members have to go through...
We're responsible to the Canadian public. Again, the protection of the public is our paramount consideration. It's part of our mandate.
I also asked Ms. Brisebois:
Is the board less well-equipped to deal with the most serious cases than the rest? Could you comment on whether they're particularly poorly equipped for the most serious cases?
Her response was:
Our board members undergo rigorous training as part of their induction, both at national office and in the regions. They're trained on various aspects of the legislation, our policies, our procedures, risk assessment, and the various actuarial tools, so they undergo a very rigorous training period.
The Parole Board should be allowed to do its job. Replacing the Parole Board with political decisions from the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness is a step backwards.
Liberals supported Bill C-587's increase to 40 years of parole ineligibility as well as the 2011 change for allowing consecutive periods of parole ineligibility. Crucially, both of these changes preserved judicial discretion in criminal sentencing under the charter. While allowing for more severe penalties, they safeguarded a judge's ability to tailor specific sentences to be proportional to specific crimes.
In contrast with Bill C-587, this bill would fetter judicial discretion in a way that would invite charter scrutiny. As I said, we are open to increasing the period of ineligibility, provided that it is the Parole Board that takes any decision once the years have passed. That approach would preserve judicial discretion, allowing sentences to pass constitutional muster.
On that note, I want to say a few words about the current government's disrespect for the Constitution, especially the charter.
This week Amy Minsky of Global News reported that the Conservatives have wasted almost $7 million of taxpayers' money in unsuccessfully trying to defend legislation and executive actions that violate Canadians' rights. That included over $1 million spent in trying to take away health care from refugees, almost $350,000 in trying to put a federal judge on Quebec's Supreme Court seat, and over $425,000 in trying to shut down a safe injection site.
Last week I learned from an order paper question that the Conservative government has spent $257,825.17 and counting in the Ishaq case, trying to ensure a woman cannot take the citizenship oath while wearing a niqab. I say “and counting” because that appeal is ongoing—not because it has a reasonable prospect for success, but because the current government wants to fearmonger and divide Canadians for political reasons. I am going to repeat the number in the Ishaq case: it spent over $257,000 to make sure a woman cannot wear a niqab in a citizenship oath. That is a stunning misuse of taxpayer money.
As Canadians know, the current government is one that has little respect for the courts and less for the charter. We all recall the disgraceful defaming of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court by the Prime Minister and the Minister of Justice. As a lawyer, I was shocked. As a Canadian, I was deeply disappointed.
Members in this chamber will also recall the revelation that the current government disregards the constitutional advice of its own lawyers. As members are aware, Department of Justice lawyer Edgar Schmidt has revealed to Canadians that the current government proceeds with legislation even if it has a 5% or less chance of being charter-compliant.
As the Liberal justice critic, I have often criticized the current government for constantly amending the Criminal Code while failing to invest the necessary resources to prevent crimes from occurring. As a general rule, the government's approach is doomed to be ineffective because its policies are not responsive to evidence.
As I said when speaking to Bill C-587, I think in particular of the government's recent cuts to Circles of Support and Accountability, a community-based reintegration group that holds sex offenders accountable for the harm they have caused while assisting with their re-entry into society at the end of their sentences. COSA has been proven to reduce recidivism among sex offenders by 70% to 83%. That is an astonishing number.
According to the government's own study, it has saved $4.60 for society for every dollar invested. Over five years it has prevented 240 sexual crimes, yet the government cut that program, which was incredibly irresponsible. That cut poses a real and ongoing threat to public safety.
Returning to Bill C-53, the life means life act, I want to reiterate that Liberals strongly support the objective of reducing repeated and unnecessary trauma to victims' families. I recall from the Bill C-587 hearings the moving testimony of two family members of victims. That testimony was the reason we supported Bill C-587. However, the goal of reducing trauma to victims can and should be achieved with changes other than those contained in Bill C-53.
The primary reason we will not support this bill is that it would replace the Parole Board with politically driven decisions from the Minister of Public Safety. That is a step backward and an affront to the rule of law. Also, it is probably unconstitutional.
I wonder if these considerations explain why the government has brought this legislation forward so late in the calendar when it has no chance of becoming law.
View Sean Casey Profile
Lib. (PE)
View Sean Casey Profile
2015-06-18 17:41 [p.15319]
Mr. Speaker, first, my colleague from the Okanagan wished me well in the upcoming election, but the Conservative candidate better. If he could tell me who it is, that might help. That individual has not yet been identified.
With respect to the specific question, there is a real concern here with the politicization of prisoner release, the politicalization of the role that previously was reserved for the Parole Board.
While he makes a valid point that there are certain powers that reside with the Minister of Public Safety right now with respect to international prisoners and those types of transfers, any encroachment on the expert role that is presently played by the Parole Board is one that is unwise, unwarranted and potentially dangerous.
View Sean Casey Profile
Lib. (PE)
View Sean Casey Profile
2015-06-18 17:44 [p.15319]
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.
He is right. It is clear that this government has adopted many measures that are quite similar to those adopted in some U.S. states.
However, we are always 10 or 20 years behind. Many of the measures adopted in the United States no longer work. There is a movement around the world, not just in the United States, to change the mindset about crime and sentencing. In fact, the hon. member's statistics confirm that.
There is another aspect of this issue that I want to address, and that is the safety of those who work in prisons. There are measures in Bill C-53 that are going to cause real problems because those who are incarcerated and will be affected by these measures will lose hope and have no reason to behave in a civilized manner. When inmates lose hope, that can create a very dangerous situation in our prisons for those who work there. In my opinion, that is an important aspect of this debate.
View Sean Casey Profile
Lib. (PE)
View Sean Casey Profile
2015-06-18 17:48 [p.15320]
Mr. Speaker, there are a couple of aspects to that question that I will try to address.
First of all, clearly, the timing of the bill is purely political. It is not just a solution in search of a problem; it is a solution in search of a fundraising letter. If the government were seriously committed to a measure like this, the government would have brought it in much earlier in the mandate.
We have also heard absolutely no evidence of the magnitude of the problem that this addresses. The member for Gatineau very ably pointed out the number of individuals who will be affected. There is absolutely no evidence that this is a rampant issue that people who commit genocide, treason and multiple murders are out walking the streets. They are not granted parole under our present system.
The other comment was with respect to prevention. With the current government, any complex social problem can apparently be solved by an amendment to the Criminal Code. These problems are much more complex than that and require much more innovative solutions. When the only thing one has in the tool kit is a sledgehammer, everything looks like a rock, and that is where we are.
View Peter MacKay Profile
CPC (NS)
View Peter MacKay Profile
2015-03-26 14:59 [p.12382]
Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Wild Rose for his well-articulated question.
In fact, we are the only party in the House that is trusted to get tough on the worst and most violent offenders in this country. I want to commend my predecessor, as well as the Prime Minister and members on this side of the House, who have supported this initiative.
As the Prime Minister said when this bill was introduced, there are certain crimes so repulsive that only lifelong punishment adequately reflects their awful nature. Bill C-53 would ensure that the most heinous violent offenders and the most horrific crimes will receive a life sentence in Canada, and it will mean just that: a sentence for life.
View Peter MacKay Profile
CPC (NS)
View Peter MacKay Profile
2015-03-11 15:14 [p.11987]
moved for leave to introduce Bill C-53, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts.
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