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View Jim Eglinski Profile
CPC (AB)
View Jim Eglinski Profile
2019-06-19 18:33 [p.29426]
Mr. Speaker, I am very alarmed that here we go again with the Liberal government, through an omnibus bill, Bill C-75, watering down criminal penalties for serious crimes. What really irks me terribly is that impaired driving causes bodily harm.
Statistics in Canada today state that impaired driving offences are going up. Impaired driving is a leading cause of death in Canada, whether from consuming alcohol or drugs, and here is that government trying to include a softening of the sentences for it through Bill C-75.
I wonder if the government could answer this. What is it really trying to do here? Statistics are going up and penalties are going to be reduced. How is that going to help make Canada safer for people driving on the roads?
View Kevin Sorenson Profile
CPC (AB)
Mr. Speaker, we are in the last few days of Parliament, and it seems like every day the government is saying it is going to invoke closure and bring forward time allocation to shut down debate.
Contrary to what the minister has just said, the process we go through here is this: Our committees look at these justice bills, and then we debate them here and send them to the Senate. Sometimes the Senate will send a bill back to us with amendments. Indeed, the Senate has sent this bill back with a number of amendments, at least 13 or 14, from what we hear tonight. However, we are not given the ability to debate those amendments. Our constituents expect us to do our due diligence.
We debated the bill prior to this, but the Senate has sent it back, and now the Liberal government is going to invoke closure. This is not just about closure and time allocation; it is about another promise of an omnibus bill. Bill C-75 is a 300-page bill that is an omnibus bill. The government has thrown everything in here, and now we are asked to shut down debate and get ready to vote on it.
The question that came from the Liberal side hit the nail on the head. That member said that one of the things we are concerned about is long delays in the courts. This bill is not just hybridizing many offences, but showing the failure of the Liberals to appoint judges throughout this country so these cases can be heard in the court system. Therefore, the Liberals bring this forward to basically push things through quickly, like a revolving door.
This is how the Liberals drew this up. Originally, offences like leaving Canada to join a terrorist group were part of this bill. It is basically allowing them to water down serious offences, such as advocating genocide, using a date rape drug and human trafficking. Yes, some of those may not be in there now, but that is the Liberal philosophy of criminal justice reforms.
I am sorry, but we are skeptical of the kinds of measures the current government brings forward, and we are very skeptical of the closure the minister is invoking.
View Rachael Harder Profile
CPC (AB)
View Rachael Harder Profile
2019-06-19 19:43 [p.29432]
Mr. Speaker, today in the House we are discussing Bill C-75. The bill is supposed to strengthen the justice system. It is meant to better protect Canadians. It is meant to reduce delays and it is meant to modernize the criminal justice system.
In part, it does this by facilitating the administration of justice down to the provinces. However, the reality is the bill is yet another example of the current government's dirty habit of saying one thing but doing another. It is known as Liberal hypocrisy, or sometimes people refer to it as Liberal logic.
At the end of the day, this will in fact severely damage Canadian society and our justice system as a whole. Despite the rhetoric from across the way and despite the current heckles, the Liberals decided that they would not properly consult with stakeholders. They rammed the bill through without giving it careful consideration, without paying attention to the call for further discussion and certainly without adequate debate in this place.
As a result, Canadians are stuck with a piece of legislation that has a number of flaws that are very significant in nature. One of the flaws has to do with hybridization. Putting aside the issue of reducing the penalty of very serious crimes for just a moment, which I will come back to, hybridization also results in many crimes being moved from Federal Court into provincial court.
The Canadian Bar Association had this to say with regard to hybridization. It said this“would likely mean more cases would be heard in provincial court. This could result in further delays in those courts”. In other words, we already have a backlog within our justice system and the Canadian Bar Association is saying that Bill C-75 would result in an even further backlog, which is problematic because these individuals do need to go to trial. These cases do need to proceed, so holding them up even further is actually an injustice to the victim.
Furthermore, it should be noted that it is the government's chief responsibility to care for the safety and well-being of its citizens, to defend the vulnerable, to create laws that put the rights of victims first, which is why it is extremely alarming to see that the Prime Minister is actually pandering more to criminals than standing up for victims.
Bill C-75 reduces penalties for some very heinous crimes including participating in a terrorist group, trafficking women and girls, committing violence against a clergy member, murdering a child within one year of birth, abducting a child, forced marriage, advocating for genocide or participating in organized crime.
The members opposite do not like it when I say those things, it is an inconvenient truth for them, so their heckling gets louder and louder, but the truth cannot be concealed. These heinous, unthinkable acts would have a reduced sentence under Bill C-75.
Conservatives believe in the safety of Canadians being put first. They believe that it should be the number one priority of any government. We will continue to speak up on behalf of victims and we will continue to advocate for them to come first in our justice system. It is very important for me to stand here today and to speak to this piece of legislation because the rights of victims and the rights of communities must come first.
We have a Prime Minister who is much more concerned about pursuing his own agenda than he is about acting in the best interests of Canadians. It is not just with Bill C-75, it is with other pieces of legislation and other decisions being made by the government as well.
Bill C-71, which is the firearms legislation, was rammed through by the government earlier this spring. This was an attack on law-abiding firearms owners. Bill C-71 was rammed through without the government taking concern for the advice of law enforcement agents. It was rammed through without them actually consulting with legislative experts. It was rammed through without the Liberals taking the time to consult with and listen to Canadians.
When those in power turn a deaf ear to the people that they represent, arrogance incapacitates any ability for them to exercise logical thought or common sense. That is exactly what has happened under the current government.
The irony in all of this is that while the Liberals are letting criminals off the hook for committing atrocious crimes such as forced marriage, trafficking, terrorist activity and genocide, they insist on demonizing those who hunt or use their rifles for sport shooting. It is absolutely ludicrous. In what world does this make sense?
From the start, the Liberals did not want to debate Bill C-71. They did not want to consult, because that would mean they would need to listen and then would be held accountable to act on the things that they heard. Instead, the Liberals decided to push Bill C-71, the firearms legislation, through the House. They told Canadians that the bill is for their safety and protection, but it does nothing of the sort. It fails to address gang violence, it fails to address illegal firearm acquisition and use and it fails to address rural crime and violence. Bill C-71 simply goes after those who are already following the law, while rewarding criminals with shorter sentences or allowing them to walk away altogether.
It is very clear that what the current government likes to do more than anything is deceive Canadians. It is less about the safety, well-being and security of our country and more about appearing to be doing something good. If the government took Canadians seriously and really took the position of honour that has been bestowed upon it seriously, then it would genuinely want to strengthen our justice system and our borders. It would genuinely want to invest in front-line responders and make sure that illegal firearms are taken off the street and that people are kept safe in this country, but the current government is not interested in actually governing well. The current government under the current Prime Minister is more interested in its appearance, its image.
The Prime Minister told veterans that they cost too much. Meanwhile, he handed $10 million over to a convicted terrorist, Omar Khadr.
An hon. member: Shame.
Ms. Rachael Harder: It is shameful. I'm glad you recognize it.
The Prime Minister insists consistently on putting criminals before victims. This is wrong, because Canadians elect a government to look after their safety, security and well-being, to ensure that this country is running on all cylinders, that Canadians have a vibrant future that they can dream for, work toward and step into and be excited about for their children and grandchildren. The bill we are discussing today, Bill C-75, which makes changes to the criminal justice system, actually puts this country at risk and victims in serious danger. It rewards criminals.
The role of every government is to keep citizens safe. It is to facilitate an environment of economic prosperity in which people are free to use their time, their talent and their energy to build wealth and achieve the financial outcomes they desire. This means protecting our borders, investing in necessary infrastructure, decreasing taxes, exercising fiscal restraint and scrapping unnecessary regulations. It means respecting the rights and freedoms of Canadians and celebrating the contributions of those who work hard, rather than turning them into criminals. I am talking about the retired widow who lives next door to me, the local business owner who serves coffee when I go there, the medical practitioners who look after our health, the students who dream for a vibrant future and the veterans who have faithfully served this country. These are the faces that government should be looking into when it makes decisions to rule this country.
During his time as prime minister, John Diefenbaker told party members, “I was criticized for being too much concerned with the average Canadians. I can't help that; I am one”, and so it is today. Just as the Right Hon. John Diefenbaker did all those years ago, my colleagues and I on this side of the House are committed to standing up for everyday Canadians, those who work hard and want a vibrant future not just for themselves but for their children and grandchildren.
When we mess around with the justice system with a bill like Bill C-75 and when we reward criminals who commit some of the most heinous crimes imaginable and allow them to go free or we diminish their sentence to a mere fine, we depreciate the value of our country and we fail to look after the well-being of Canadian citizens.
In this place, there are 338 of us who were elected to do far better than that. I would expect much more from the current Prime Minister and much more from the members who govern with him. There is no greater honour than to serve in this place, to be elected by the people of Canada and to have the opportunity to function as a voice on their behalf. I would call upon this House to steward that honour and to vote this bill down.
View Rachael Harder Profile
CPC (AB)
View Rachael Harder Profile
2019-06-19 19:54 [p.29433]
Mr. Speaker, I would invite that member to have her hearing checked, because there was clear heckling in this place.
View Rachael Harder Profile
CPC (AB)
View Rachael Harder Profile
2019-06-19 19:56 [p.29433]
Mr. Speaker, I respect the hon. member's question. Certainly any act that advocates on behalf of victims is noble. Any act that would put the well-being of women and children first and foremost is absolutely to be commended.
However, there are allowances made within this bill that would in fact allow people off with very small fines or penalties after committing extremely heinous crimes. I would also like to add that if the member opposite and his colleagues are interested in the well-being of victims, it probably would have been a good idea to consult with them in the creation of this bill. That was not adequately done.
View Rachael Harder Profile
CPC (AB)
View Rachael Harder Profile
2019-06-19 19:58 [p.29434]
Mr. Speaker, Conservatives have always had a policy of standing up for victims and placing them as our first priority. We have always had a policy of advocating for Canadians who live everyday lives. We have always had a policy of making sure that our justice system is strengthened and that the most vulnerable among us are advocated for. We will continue that legacy when we form government in October.
View Rachael Harder Profile
CPC (AB)
View Rachael Harder Profile
2019-06-19 19:59 [p.29434]
Mr. Speaker, certainly when this bill was first brought forward, terrorism and genocide were included within hybridization. However, due to pressure that was applied by the Conservative members in this House as well as by members of the Canadian public, the Liberals did walk those two back, so I will give them credit for that.
View Rachael Harder Profile
CPC (AB)
View Rachael Harder Profile
2019-06-19 20:00 [p.29434]
Mr. Speaker, I think the bottom line is this: Those who find themselves elected in this place find themselves in a very honoured position and have every responsibility to stand up for the rights of victims first and foremost. Bill C-75 fails to do that.
View Kevin Sorenson Profile
CPC (AB)
Mr. Speaker, I chair the public accounts committee. There are some significant changes in this bill.
When we look at the supplementary estimates, $448 million were given to CSC. However, when we have tried to find out what the financial implications are, the cost of all the measures in the bill, we can not get an answer from the government.
The parliamentary secretary is privy to those briefings with the department. I know that typically those answers are given by the department.
If we have scanners, and the parliamentary secretary talked about limited, I wonder, and I think Canadians wonder as well, what the costs of the bill would be.
View Kevin Sorenson Profile
CPC (AB)
Mr. Speaker, before I begin, I would like to seek unanimous consent for this speaking slot to be a regular 20-and-10 speaking slot, rather than unlimited time, and to split the time with the member for Yellowhead. We have unlimited time slots and would ask for unanimous consent to split the time so my friend from Yellowhead can share some of his stories of the Correctional Service.
View Kevin Sorenson Profile
CPC (AB)
Mr. Speaker, I thank the chamber for doing that.
This undoubtedly will be the last time I ever speak in this place. As I rise on this night, I want to thank the throng of people that have come out to hear this speech.
I rise this evening to speak to Bill C-83, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another act.
This legislation seeks to eliminate administrative segregation in correctional facilities; replace these facilities with new structured intervention units, or SIUs; introduce body scanners for inmates; set parameters for access to health care; and formalize exceptions for indigenous offenders, female offenders and offenders with diagnosed mental health issues.
Just as we fundamentally opposed the bill in its original form, we oppose the government's motion respecting the Senate amendments.
We on this side of the House believe that this legislation has the potential of making prisons more dangerous both for offenders and for correctional officers. I will get into that in a bit.
Drumheller Institution, a medium security facility, is located within my riding of Battle River—Crowfoot. Over the many years I have represented this riding, I have developed a very good rapport with many of the good people who work there.
Correctional officers contact my constituency office on a regular basis, asking for assistance in resolving cases and issues they have within and with their institution. I would never support a bill that could potentially endanger their lives any more than they already are, given that they are employed in an inherently hazardous occupation. Currently, my office has 20 active files and 50 inactive files, but also unresolved files from Drumheller correctional workers with respect to pay issues due to the Phoenix pay system, as well as other issues. They are not alone. Nearly two-thirds of public servants have unresolved pay issues more than three years after the Phoenix system was launched.
Now the national union president representing correctional officers is raising serious concerns about the very real possibility of some new measures taking place within the institution. One of them is the first supervised drug injection site for prisoners. The Correctional Service of Canada has neither confirmed nor denied this is about to happen by the end of the month.
As National President Jeff Wilkins told the National Post in an article that appeared on June 9, “The correctional officers are dead set against the prison needle-exchange and the current way it's being rolled out.” It is a program that he says is unsafe for guards, as they are responsible for distributing needles to prisoners in their cells, a scheme that has done nothing to stop needle sharing and defies reason in that people in prison should not have access to those drugs.
One of my constituents wrote me, “As a Correctional Officer, I am opposed to the proposed Needle Exchange program, which is definitely defeating the purpose of the whole anti-drug thing that we were shooting for in jail. Is there any way that I and other co-workers can express our concerns with our MP?”
l told him that I was definitely open to hearing and discussing these concerns with him and his colleagues. I could not assure him, however, that the Liberal government would listen. I did in fact tell him that I would bring his concerns to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness but was not at all confident that he would be receptive to those concerns.
After 19 years in this place and a number of years as our party's public safety critic for the official opposition in 2001 until about 2005, I have learned that when it comes to justice, under Liberal governments inmates and their rights take precedence over victims and correctional officers' rights.
For the 19 years that I have been in this place, I have repeatedly stood in the House fighting for victims' rights, fighting for changes to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act to end such things as statutory release and promoting the idea of protection of society as a guiding principle in our justice system.
I oppose conditional sentences as originally prescribed by the Liberals, which saw rapists and other violent offenders serve their sentences at home. My constituents back me up on that.
I am equally opposed to needle exchange programs in our correctional institutions, and I am opposed to injection sites. I wholeheartedly agree with the union president that rather than providing needle exchanges and designated sites within prisons for inmates to shoot up, we should perhaps have medical facilities closer to these prisons to deal with the drug overdoses that may result.
So much more should and can be done to stop the drug trade within the correctional facilities, which is leading to overdose, to death and to the continued gang wars that take place within our prisons. Canadians would agree that it defies reason that drugs make their way into the prisons, not to mention the huge amount of drugs and number of needles that circulate.
This is certainly not a new phenomenon. This has been going on for years. The Liberals' only solution is to give the inmates what they want. I disagree.
I fully understand that many inmates are drug addicts and that many of them are in prison as a result of criminal behaviour related to their addiction. They need help. They do not need more drugs, especially drugs that are bought or bartered for within prison. The fact that drugs cannot be stopped from entering our prisons certainly is a blight on the reputation of the Correctional Service of Canada.
As I pointed out this year when I last spoke to this bill, the Correctional Service of Canada certainly has been the subject of much criticism over the last number of years. In that speech, I mentioned one of the fall reports of the Auditor General of Canada, in 2017. It was entitled “Preparing Women Offenders for Release”. The objective of the Auditor General's report was this:
[to determine] whether Correctional Service Canada assigned and delivered correctional programs, interventions, and mental health services to women offenders in federal custody—including Indigenous women offenders—that responded appropriately to their unique needs and helped them successfully reintegrate into the community.
We heard our parliamentary secretary talk about correctional programs tonight, and this bill also deals with indigenous women offenders.
As noted by the Auditor General:
Under the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, Correctional Service Canada is required to provide programs and services that respond to the needs of women offenders.
The report states:
Overall, we found that Correctional Service Canada had not implemented an initial security classification process designed specifically for women offenders.... As a result, some women offenders risked being held at inappropriate security levels....
Furthermore, and most relevant to our debate here this evening, the Auditor General concluded:
We found that Correctional Service Canada had not confirmed whether its tools correctly identified women offenders with mental health issues or assigned them the appropriate level of care.
I also spoke about report 6 of the fall 2018 Auditor General report on community supervision of offenders, in which the Auditor General found that while the number of offenders released into community supervision had grown and was expected to keep growing, the Correctional Service of Canada had reached the limit of how many offenders it could house in the community. Despite the growing backlog and despite research that showed that a gradual supervised release gave offenders a better chance of successful reintegration, the Correctional Service of Canada did not have a long-term plan to respond to its housing pressures.
The Auditor General also found that the Correctional Service of Canada did not properly manage offenders under community supervision. Parole officers did not always meet with offenders as often as they should have, nor did parole officers always monitor offenders' compliance with special conditions imposed by the Parole Board of Canada.
I continue today to implore the Liberal government to focus on ensuring that the Correctional Service of Canada fully meets its mandate. The safety and security of Canadians depends on the successful rehabilitation and reintegration of offenders into society upon their release. Given the findings of the Office of the Auditor General, I believe that uneasiness with respect to safety and security of Canadians extends well beyond Bill C-83.
I implore the current government to start thinking about those who find themselves in danger's way daily by implementing measures and policies to protect them. If it only took the time to consult them, I am confident their ideas, based on years of experience, would ensure Correctional Services Canada would be able to fulfill its mandate.
I am thankful for the opportunity to speak tonight. I look forward to any questions.
View Kevin Sorenson Profile
CPC (AB)
Mr. Speaker, with respect to the consultations, let me quote what Jason Godin, president of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, said. This is partly involving the costing of the bill. He stated, “Unfortunately, due to cabinet confidentiality, as our commissioner often tells us, we weren't really consulted.” That is what the union said.
When I speak to my officers, they are not consulted about a whole host of issues.
A member of the committee said she spoke to a number of people. However, it should not just be a chat with someone on the sideline of a committee meeting, but deep consultations with not just the union but correctional officers.
Godin continues, “The bill was as much a surprise to us as it was to anybody. I don't see the bill before it comes onto the table, so we weren't officially consulted on Bill C-83.”
Here is our problem. I asked the parliamentary secretary tonight about the costing of the bill. She gave us a line item, but she did not specify what the costs would be for the scanners or the change to the integration system and no longer having the administrative segregation. We do not have those answers.
This is another one of these bills where we moved into tonight's last few hours of debate after the government invoked closure and time allocation.
I will go into some of what Senator Pate said. She stated, “If there have been no meaningful consultations to this point on this process, then I would not have faith that those mechanisms would be put in place within the prison setting”. Although the Senate has brought forth amendments, the senator is saying she recognizes there is a lack of consultation.
View Rachael Harder Profile
CPC (AB)
View Rachael Harder Profile
2019-06-19 22:39 [p.29451]
Mr. Speaker, talking about consultation, interestingly, two weeks ago there were several hundred correctional officers who gathered on the lawn here on Parliament Hill to protest the current government and its decision to introduce a needle exchange program within the federal prisons. Officers would say they were not consulted on this decision and that they very much feel they have been put in harm's way by the installation of this program.
I am wondering if the hon. member could comment on this further and highlight the importance of consulting with those who are on the front lines, day in and day out.
View Kevin Sorenson Profile
CPC (AB)
Mr. Speaker, I served in government. I know consultations. For me, it was budget consultations across the country, meeting with as many as we could, meeting with people in every community and every chamber. There were consultations online, as well as in person.
The hon. member is correct. When I spoke to my correctional officers, they said they were not consulted. When we speak to the union, it said there was inadequate consultation.
In the case the member is referring to, which is a little different than what the scope of the bill is, on the needle exchanges the officers are very concerned about their safety. We know that the needle that was maybe used to shoot up a drug could also be used as a weapon in the hands of that offender against other offenders and against correctional officers. It is one thing to say they are employed in an inherently dangerous surrounding, and another for governments to say they had better consult and make sure that what they are doing is the right thing. Unfortunately, the current government fails on consultation every time.
View Jim Eglinski Profile
CPC (AB)
View Jim Eglinski Profile
2019-06-19 22:41 [p.29451]
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join my partner from Battle River—Crowfoot in speaking to Bill C-83. I have stood in the House a number of times to speak to it, and I was on the committee that studied Bill C-83, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another act.
This has been a bad bill right from the beginning. The Liberals did not listen to very many people. They wrote the bill, brought it before committee and forced it upon it, as they are doing today, forcing us in the second-to-last day Parliament is sitting to speak to the amendments that have been brought in by the Senate. The Liberals do not like the amendments, but they want to push this through.
From the beginning, when we started studying Bill C-83 at committee, a number of witnesses came forward. The John Howard Society said it was bad. The Elizabeth Fry Society said it was bad. We had a 19-year prisoner who admitted to being a pretty bad guy, and he said parts of the bill were bad. He was the type of person who needed to be put into a segregation unit to protect the guards and other prisoners, and even himself. The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association said it was a bad bill. The Native Women's Association said it was a bad bill. There were a number of organizations.
Now we have it brought before us, as I said, on the second-to-last day before the House rises for the summer.
My friend from Battle River—Crowfoot just mentioned the corrections union and that his union was not spoken to. Very much like the institution in his riding at Drumheller, which is medium-security, I have a medium-security facility in the town of Grande Cache, in the great riding of Yellowhead. It is probably one of the most beautiful jail settings in North America. It is on top of a mountain overlooking the Rocky Mountains. There are a large number of aboriginal prisoners there.
I know some of the guards there very well; some of them went to school with my daughter years ago. They are very concerned that they were not consulted properly and that Bill C-83, if enacted the way it is, will make it dangerous for the guards. That is totally unacceptable.
The change would make prisoners more dangerous for the guards, as they will have to deal with the worst of the worst and the most volatile being out and about from their cells for four hours a day.
I totally agree that things need to change and we need to be civil and human in how we treat prisoners. Many years ago, I had the privilege to be on what the RCMP called provost duty. I escorted prisoners throughout British Columbia and western Canada back and forth from remand centres and detachments to prisons, etc. I came to know many of these individuals on a personal basis and many times I travelled 200 or 300 miles with three prisoners by myself.
One could be a real dick and those guys would hate it by the time they got to the destination, or one could be a decent individual, have a conversation with them, treat them decently, with respect and dignity, and have a 200- or 300-mile drive with three prisoners.
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