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Results: 1 - 7 of 7
View Larry Bagnell Profile
Lib. (YT)
View Larry Bagnell Profile
2019-06-19 23:49 [p.29460]
Mr. Speaker, I too would like to thank the member for all her hard work on this file at committee and her very good amendments, which make this bill much better. I am sure she has more to say, so I will leave her time to do that, instead of asking a question.
However, I want to make one comment for the next Parliament. A number of people in solitary have FASD, and those people are not treated appropriately in the correctional system because of their affliction. I presented a bill earlier this year, which almost passed. Hopefully, some parliamentarians here will pick that up in the next Parliament.
I will let the member continue on the topic she was doing so well on.
View Larry Bagnell Profile
Lib. (YT)
View Larry Bagnell Profile
2016-12-06 19:03 [p.7757]
Mr. Speaker, there we have it. We finally have before us a bill that reflects what the legal, medical, and psychological experts have been asking for years, a bill to make long overdue changes to the criminal justice system to more accurately effect the appropriate just treatment for thousands of victims of FASD and to save millions of dollars in courts and prison costs.
What do the legal experts say? The largest body of experts, the Canadian Bar Association, comprised of 36,000 prosecutors, defence lawyers, judges, etc., says the following:
People with FASD have a permanent organic brain injury caused by maternal alcohol consumption during pregnancy. That brain injury results in a wide range of symptoms of varying severity, but is characterized by symptoms that often go against underlying principles of criminal law. These normative assumptions of criminal law infer that individuals are responsible for their own actions, that they can control their behaviors in keeping with societal expectations and that they can learn from and be deterred by previous experience.
Characteristics of FASD directly challenge these assumptions. Individuals with FASD may exhibit a lack of impulse control, impaired judgment, and an inability to control or modify their behavior. They may be susceptible to pressure from others and lack the ability to learn from past experiences or to understand the consequences of their own actions. Poor executive functioning skills mean that they may make the same mistakes over and over.
For these and other reasons, many people with FASD are in frequent contact with the criminal justice system. Often, the characteristics that made them susceptible to coming before the system are the very same characteristics that will keep them unreasonably enmeshed in the system over time...In June 2015, this reality was recognized in the Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
The current criminal justice framework does not give individuals with FASD adequate support, which in turn increases both the suffering of those involved and increases the costs to the criminal justice system. We believe that Bill C-235 is an important step in addressing some of the shortcomings of the current framework....Trial judges must have discretion to deal humanely with people who have FASD....We urge Parliament to adopt Bill C-235...
We heard some minor concerns raised earlier, but those have all been addressed in the first hour of debate and in the information I sent everyone today.
I am going to close with an excerpt from a long letter I will send everyone. It is from the mother of an FASD victim. She says:
“Your vote can slash the suicide rate in certain populations, save innocent people from destructive criminal records which ruin employment prospects in an already vulnerable group which are the invisibly disabled ...Those with both diagnosed and undiagnosed FASD end up in segregation, because they are at the bottom of the food chain among convicts...Send a disabled innocent person to jail to get punished and treated badly, and then wonder why they either kill themselves or come out of jail unable to function, and refuse help from anyone who offers it. Why would they trust us?
You can save lots of taxpayer money...by voting for this slight adjustment to our justice system ... [FASD suffering] is not due to anything they've done to themselves, but was rather done to them before they were born. Have you thought about the real meaning of mens rea? The same way someone with a developmental delay cannot form criminal intent, someone with poor executive functioning due to [FASD] cannot plan a crime. It's about time we allow science to inform some outdated concepts which do nothing to protect society and do inflict a lot of harm. The punishment must fit the crime.
In many cases for the person with FASD, the punishment has nothing to do with fairness, and everything to do with our inability to look at the real person behind the crime and what brought them into contact with law enforcement.... When we overlook the large number of cases in which FASD is a factor, we miss a chance to address the trauma of living with FASD, and instead, add to that trauma. We send the message that our children are not worth the effort it would take tell this population that they belong in the world. Please vote for Bill C-235.”
One day this long-standing injustice will be rectified. It is inevitable. As members of the 42nd Parliament, we could be the pioneers that forge this great accomplishment by eliminating the suffering of thousands of innocent victims. The choice is ours.
View Larry Bagnell Profile
Lib. (YT)
View Larry Bagnell Profile
2016-11-03 17:38 [p.6575]
moved that Bill C-235, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (fetal alcohol disorder), be read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.
He said: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be here today on the traditional territory of the Algonquin people.
I am moved today to start the debate on my bill, Bill C-235, an act to amend the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (fetal alcohol disorder).
We have all seen television episodes of someone wrongly imprisoned and how that devastates their lives and how heart breaking it is. I am sure that has moved many members to tears. We have it in our power with Bill C-235 to end a number of cases of needless suffering of innocents. It is not one, not two, not three, but potentially over 2,000 cases a year. In fact, for people alive in Canada today, it could potentially affect 180,000 Canadians. This is an immense challenge and humanitarian opportunity.
First, I will explain the bill briefly. FASD, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, is permanent brain damage caused by prenatal exposure to alcohol. In a vast majority of cases, unlike other ailments, it is an invisible affliction. Among the symptoms of the resulting defects in the central nervous system are impaired mental functioning, poor executive functioning, memory problems, impaired judgment, inability to control compulsive behaviour, and impaired ability to understand the consequences of one's actions. These are a distinct set of attributes capably diagnosed by today's modern assessments. Through no fault of their own, the brain they were born with does not have the ability to keep them from committing crimes or understanding the consequences. Therefore, normal sentencing, normal incarceration, normal release do not make any logical sense in their regard, and do not fulfill the purposes for which they were created.
The bill comprises four recommendations from the Canadian Bar Association, which represents the thousands of lawyers and judges who deal with this affliction every day. First, it would allow the court to order assessments of an offender to see if they have FASD. Second, if they have FASD, it would allow them to use that as a mitigating factor in sentencing. Third, when a person with FASD is in custody, the bill directs that they be treated specially for that. It would be added to a list of other conditions and groups of people treated specially in the correctional system. Fourth, when a person with FASD is released they would have an external support plan so they do not miss probation, for example, and end up, as judges say, through the revolving door and back in prison.
While prima facie, it is a simple bill, many bills can be improved in committee and I would welcome any logical amendments to it.
My goal is to reduce unnecessary, tragic human suffering, but some may want to know the financial savings. Assessments cost in the order of $5,000. If Ontario were to keep one-half of the early potential 840 FASD offenders out of jail for just one year, at $100,000 a year, it would provide the province with over $40 million a year for more logical, just, humane, effective ways of dealing with these offenders and their afflictions.
It is important to note that in the last Parliament, similar bills to this were twice before the Parliament. One was Conservative and one was Liberal. However, there was not enough time for them to complete the legislative cycle. We will shortly hear some of the excerpts from that debate. Speakers from all parties supported and spoke in favour of that bill.
It is important to recognize that this bill is only a small piece of the much larger puzzle of steps needed to alleviate the suffering, and sometimes tortured existence, of people with FASD. Other steps that need to be taken include prevention. This is a totally preventable condition. They include steps to prevent contact with the justice system in the first place, further research, special services, restorative justice, information sharing, targeted interventions, and supportive living arrangements.
These are important tasks for others, but this bill only deals with FASD sufferers who are involved with the justice system. That is about 60% of them. Yes, I said 60%.
As I outlined at the beginning, and as we can see, the need is staggering. It is estimated that one in 100 Canadians is afflicted with FASD and studies have indicated that, minimally, between 10% and 30% of inmates in today's prisons have FASD, costing us tens of millions of dollars.
This is perhaps why in its call to action No. 34, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission calls on the governments of Canada, the provinces, and the territories “to undertake reforms to the criminal justice system to better address the needs of offenders with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD)”.
As I said, I am open to amendments, and I will just give members four questions that people might want to debate in committee.
First, should the judge have the power to make assessments mandatory?
There are mixed views on this. There are already precedents in the criminal justice system for ordering assessments, but if parliamentarians feel that these should not be mandatory, then it would be easy to amend the bill. We do have to protect the offender from self-incrimination during these assessments. If parliamentarians wanted, they could expand the assessment section to clarify Criminal Code assessment powers in general, and that would also include FASD assessments. To the credit of the territories and the provinces, assessments are much more widely available now than in the past.
Second, what about people with other afflictions who are not included in the bill?
First, they are not filling our jails in the thousands like the FASD offenders are; second, if there were a big need in other identified afflictions needing special conditions that could be prescribed, someone would have proposed legislative remedies for that situation; and third, most other conditions are visible and otherwise known to the judge, while FASD is known as the invisible affliction because, until diagnosed, many people, including judges, would not know the offender had FASD and impaired brain and central nervous functions. Indeed, some have high IQs but still have the interaction deficiencies that I outlined at the beginning of my speech. Fourth, if another condition and its deficiencies and special provisions were presented to the committee, these could easily be added to the bill now or to the Criminal Code at a later date. To date, no serious evidence has been presented to us of another condition with near the magnitude of a problem that FASD poses in our present day justice system, as identified by lawyers, judges, and FASD workers across Canada.
A third question that members might want to debate in committee is the following. What if, in the rare violent offender FASD cases, the assessment results in the offender being put in protective custody for a longer time than would have occurred without the assessment, for the safety of both himself and the public?
I say, so be it. As an evidence-based government, it is better to have more evidence to make a decision.
A fourth question is, should the external support plan be approved by the judge or the probation officer, and should it be voluntary, after the time of a normal sentence of a person who does not have FASD?
Those are four items we could discuss. As I said, I am open to amendments.
We can save thousands if we act now, from injustice and needless suffering. Perhaps, in the future, we could even add a few more if a condition and its legislative remedies are identified and documented. However, there is no reason to delay. If in fact someone launched and won a challenge and were added to the criminal justice system, then our pioneering efforts would have paved the way for that to happen, for that person or that group to have justice, too.
There is a huge desire on the part of MPs on all sides of the House to improve greatly our dealing with mental health issues in Canada. What a great humanitarian advance it would be if we could improve the lives of thousands with this mental deficiency. It goes without saying that in Canada, and in fact around the world, there is great support for legislative assistance for people afflicted with FASD who come into contact with the legal system. When a similar bill was before Parliament, the Conservative proponent said he had 1,500 stakeholders supporting his efforts. I have my own large network of support.
The Conservative member also said, on June 5, 2014, in Hansard:
I would also like to extend my gratitude to the legislators of the Yukon Territory and the Northwest Territories, both of which recently passed unanimous motions calling on the Government to support Bill C-583.
Some FASD workers in other countries applaud Canada for these pioneering efforts and want to use them as models in their own nations.
However, it is not only FASD experts in the field who are so passionate and excited about the bill. We must remember that the bill is different from a lot of normal private members' bills that may not have a legislative background. The bill is comprised of only the four recommendations from the Canadian Bar Association, and crafted by its president at the time Rod Snow, thousands of its member lawyers, legal experts, and judges who deal constantly in the courts and corrections system with offenders who suffer with FASD. Who better to craft the legislative improvement?
The purpose of sentencing is to protect the public by presenting a deterrent to offenders so that when they get out, which virtually all of them do, they do not reoffend. However, the damaged brain of FASD offenders often do not connect the crime with the punishment. Therefore, if they do not know why they are being punished, why would we continuously, cruelly, and senselessly incarcerate them, at the cost of tens of millions of dollars, instead of treating and supervising them appropriately on the basis of the reality of the sad truth of their physical brain deficiency?
I want to quote again from the Conservative speech from Hansard, when the bill was before Parliament on June 5, 2014. It is a quote about a young FASD woman speaking at a conference. It states:
She talked about going to work in the morning and forgetting her keys and then returning home to get her keys, but then forgetting why she had come home. Then, when she finally realized what she was looking for, her keys, she forgot what she needed her keys for. She had to slow down and calm herself and deal with that confusion and frustration of not being able to really grasp exactly what she needed to get done.
Imagine this young woman being tasked with making a number of probation or court appearances or appointments. What happens if she misses an appointment? She would go back to jail because of an administrative breach. These people have a damaged nervous system and little concept of timing, and we are irrationally and unjustly sentencing them to a painful and personal purgatory.
Our current federal justice minister said it as well as anyone I have heard, when she said this to the Canadian Bar Association last February:
The truth is that many offenders have some combination of mental illness and addiction....
Imagine if we could change the system to better align it with the needs of all Canadians. What if an offender's first interaction with the criminal justice system did not become the first in a series? What if it triggered mechanisms designed to address the factors that inspired the criminal behaviour in the first place?
It has been a long day. Let us imagine we are going home. However, what if after we have walked a couple of blocks from here, to our horror, we are picked up by the police and put in jail for a couple of years, far from our friends and family, and we did not know why? Then, when our time was up and we got out of this horrible situation, we were picked up by a police car again and told that we missed an appointment and we were thrown back in jail. We would wonder how people could be so cruel.
Colleagues, let us show what it means to be Canadian and end the suffering of thousands who, through no fault of their own, cannot help themselves.
View Larry Bagnell Profile
Lib. (YT)
View Larry Bagnell Profile
2016-11-03 17:52 [p.6578]
Mr. Speaker, the answer is yes and no. I think it depends on what part of Canada one comes from.
The member mentioned a very good point, which is that it is in certain parts of Canada. In certain areas like mine, where people are used to it, the judges and lawyers understand this and they make those special provisions. Sometimes the judges will go out on a limb without any legislative backdrop to do that and use it as a mitigating factor when maybe they should not.
However, there are parts of Canada where they do not understand this yet, even though people drink and have babies, so it is just as prevalent. They do not know it and do not realize this could be a factor. If they put it right in the system, it gives them the authority so that they are not stepping outside their bounds. Also, it educates those who do not understand that these people need to be treated in a different way.
View Larry Bagnell Profile
Lib. (YT)
View Larry Bagnell Profile
2016-11-03 17:54 [p.6578]
Mr. Speaker, I listed some of the concerns. There is excellent research now, so it is speeding up a lot more. Some of the reasons have been more political as opposed to research. I tried to address any legislative concerns people might have with the bill.
That is a good question and it gives me an opportunity to say something brand new. There is some very fascinating research going on now. By testing genes and chromosomes and their reaction to alcohol, there may soon be a way of doing biological testing, which there never was before. This would be a huge advance if that research, which is taking place somewhere the Prairies, is successful. It would be great for all of us.
View Larry Bagnell Profile
Lib. (YT)
View Larry Bagnell Profile
2016-11-03 17:56 [p.6578]
Mr. Speaker, I, the correctional investigator and the member for Charlottetown all spoke at a conference on this. The investigator is quite supportive and understands the correctional system and those needs very well. It is good that the member mentioned it was reflected in his report. It is pretty obvious to the people who work in the jails that there are special needs.
View Larry Bagnell Profile
Lib. (YT)
View Larry Bagnell Profile
2016-02-25 10:14 [p.1358]
moved for leave to introduce Bill C-235, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (fetal alcohol disorder).
He said: Mr. Speaker, I rise to introduce an act to amend the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act with respect to fetal alcohol disorder, seconded by the member for Humber River—Black Creek.
I want to first give credit to the Canadian Bar Association and former president Rod Snow, whose recommendations form the basis of this bill, and the member for Charlottetown, who first tabled the identical bill on March 10, 2015. When the precursor to this bill was debated in this House, every member of every party who spoke were in favour to it.
It causes me great emotion to introduce this private member's bill to amend the Criminal Code to establish a procedure for the assessment of individuals who are involved in the criminal justice system and who may suffer from fetal alcohol disorder. It requires the court to consider a determination that the offender suffers from fetal alcohol disorder as a mitigating factor in sentencing.
The bill also requires Correctional Service Canada to recognize the existence of fetal alcohol disorder as a disability within that system.
This bill could alleviate so much human suffering of innocents, and I commend it into the hands of my colleagues, MPs and senators.
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