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View MaryAnn Mihychuk Profile
Lib. (MB)
View MaryAnn Mihychuk Profile
2018-11-20 16:42 [p.23636]
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to stand here today in this honourable House to talk about Bill C-75.
This is a long overdue change to the legal system, which has been bogged down, in many cases to such an extent that cases have been found to have lost their meaning and been adjourned. People whom we suspected were guilty got away without going through due process at all. Those circumstances cannot happen. It is not justice. It is not fair.
This is one step towards making a fairer, more efficient and effective judicial system. Bill C-75 is a meaningful and significant approach to promoting efficiency, and I would assume that all members of the House would like to see that happen. Efficiency and effectiveness are what every member would like to see in our systems, because we would not want to waste one penny of taxpayer money on something that could be done better. It is always our goal to do better. That is exactly what this bill does.
This bill would, in a significant way, promote efficiency in our criminal justice system, reduce case completion times, as I mentioned earlier, and contribute to increased public confidence while respecting the rights of those involved and ensuring that public safety is maintained.
In terms of preliminary inquiries, this bill would restrict preliminary inquires to adults accused of the 63 most serious offences in the Criminal Code, which carry a sentence of life imprisonment, like murder; and would reinforce a judge's power to limit the questions to be examined, as well as the number of witnesses who will appear.
The Supreme Court of Canada in its Jordan decision, and the Senate legal affairs committee in its final report on delays in the justice system, recommended that preliminary inquiry reform be considered. We should be proud to support a bill that takes into account not only the recommendations of this House but also of the upper house and of the provinces and territories that have been working on this issue for many years. It has been discussed for decades.
Some say that restricting preliminary inquiries might have little impact on the delays. Even though it concerns only 3% of the cases, it would still have a significant impact on those provinces where this procedure is used more often, such as Ontario and Quebec. We know, because of the population base involved, that this would have a significant impact on the whole judicial system.
Also, we cannot overlook the cumulative effect of all of Bill C-75's proposals that seek to streamline the criminal justice system process.
It is of course for the betterment of both the accused and victims to have the system move fairly and efficiently in a timely manner. The proposed preliminary inquiry amendments are the culmination of years of study and consideration in federal-provincial-territorial and other meetings.
We know that it is not easy to negotiate a framework when we have many divergent views and jurisdictions involved, but this is going to be good for Canadians. It will be good for the indigenous population of our country, who have unfortunately been the victim of a system that many have called racist. If we look at the number of indigenous people in our jails, it is extremely high. One must ask why the system seems to incarcerate so many more indigenous people than their population warrants. These changes will be more effective and fairer for our indigenous population, and that is a commitment of our Prime Minister.
This is a balanced approach. We often see that in this House, in particular, where we have the left and the right, the positions can be quite separated, with the Liberals coming in the middle and providing a balanced approach and centre to both.
I think most Canadians are reasonable centralists and, as we have seen in the past, this type of negotiated solution means compromises on both sides. As we look at the balanced approach between opposing views put forward by both committees and those expressed by the House, they are considered and put forward in this bill.
This bill would make this procedure more efficient and expedient. Of course, that is the goal of all of our programs for Canadians, as well as being meaningful, respectful and available to all Canadians. It is important to respect the accused person's right to a fair trial. This would also help witnesses and victims by preventing some of them from having to testify twice. That is just not reasonable for the system. It is hard on victims, very hard on witnesses, so to eliminate this would be of benefit to all.
Let us look at the issue of case management. Bill C-75 would allow for the earlier appointment of case management judges. This recognizes their unique and vital role in ensuring the momentum of cases is maintained, and that they are completed in an efficient, effective, just and timely manner. This was also recommended by the Senate report on delays in the criminal justice system.
It is important to discuss, even if briefly, the use of technology and how it would provide fairness, particularly to the indigenous population of Canada. I come from Manitoba, which has the highest per capita number of indigenous people of any province. In many cases, they are in fairly remote and isolated communities where participating in a full process is extremely difficult because there are no roads, access is limited and broadband connections are poor. These are all issues that make justice much more difficult for indigenous people in those circumstances.
In terms of technology, the bill proposes to allow remote appearances by audio or video conference for accused, witnesses, lawyers, judges, justices of the peace and interpreters, under certain circumstances. This would obviously assist many people, although it is not always appropriate. Canada has allowed remote appearances for many years, and these amendments seek to broaden the existing framework.
These optional tools in Bill C-75 aim to increase access to justice, streamline processes and reduce system costs, such as the transport of the accused and witness attendance costs, without impacting existing resources such as those through the indigenous court worker program. The changes we are proposing also respond to the Senate committee recommendations, which called for an increase to the use of remote appearances for accused persons.
In conclusion, the proposals in Bill C-75 in relation to preliminary inquiries, judicial case management and remote appearances, together with all of the other reforms, would ensure that our criminal justice system is efficient, just and in line with the values of our communities and all Canadians.
View Linda Duncan Profile
NDP (AB)
View Linda Duncan Profile
2011-11-29 15:50 [p.3749]
Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to Bill C-10, which is described as the safe streets and communities bill. I am rising today in my role as the critic for aboriginal affairs and northern development.
A number of members speaking to this bill have raised concerns that this approach does not fully respond to the concerns that have been raised over the decades by the courts, corrections officers, legal experts, corrections experts, and by the aboriginal community itself.
The aboriginal community in Canada is less than 3% to 4% of the total population, yet tenfold more aboriginal Canadians are incarcerated. As National Chief Shawn Atleo has pointed out, aboriginal youth are more likely to be incarcerated than to graduate from high school.
The number of aboriginal women prisoners is growing and is more than the number of other Canadian women prisoners. Of the women in maximum security, 46% are aboriginal. There has been a 20% increase in the incarceration of aboriginal women just in the last five years.
I will give examples at the provincial level. In Saskatchewan provincial jails, 87% are aboriginal. In Manitoba, 83% are aboriginal. In Alberta, 54% are aboriginal. This is absolutely reprehensible. Surely this should have raised a red flag with the government. In coming forward with these proposals to address crime, to reduce crime and consider victims, surely the government should have considered this. However, that is not apparent on the face of the bill or in the debate.
Why is there a higher rate of aboriginals incarcerated? The reasons I mentioned have been reiterated in countless studies, court decisions, determinations by coroners, and so forth. The Auditor General has raised concerns about this and about the discriminatory treatment of aboriginals in more than 30 reports over a decade.
The coroner's report on the sad rate of suicide at Pikangikum raised the broader issues of concern as to why there are suicides and why there is a high rate of crime within the aboriginal communities.
The reasons have been stated decade after decade as discrimination against aboriginals in education, housing, sanitation, poverty, opportunities to engage in the economy. This has resulted in despair, gang membership, domestic disputes and intoxication-related crimes.
The cost of Bill C-10 for Canadian aboriginal communities will be far greater than just the price of expanding jails. The price to the aboriginal community will be an increasing loss of opportunity for aboriginal youth to have community supports, to continue their education, to participate in the economy, and to have the support of their families to become contributing members of society.
A good number of the witnesses on this bill raised the particular concern of the blanket policy of minimum sentences. Many legal experts testified on the government bill in the last Parliament and the current bill. They stated that the threat of minimum sentences will have a negligible deterrent effect for the majority of aboriginal offenders. Why? Because the majority of offences are related to: addictions; violence associated with intoxication; interpersonal violence; a sense of hopelessness; the legacy and impacts of residential schools; and adoptions away from their community. They also have been the unwitting victims of committing the crime or victims of the crime related to street life.
The experts are telling us that minimum sentences will do nothing to address the root causes of aboriginal offences. If the very purpose of the bill, as the government professes, is to deter further crime and to avoid further victimization, then clearly if the majority of people in our prisons are aboriginals, there is a problem. Where is the analysis of whether or not these measures will genuinely deter aboriginal criminals and reduce their crime rate?
The only predictable result of these measures would be the increased percentage of aboriginals in our jails, the increased probability of denied pardons, as they are currently called, and the increased number of aboriginals outside the economy. The government speaks all the time of the need to get our aboriginals engaged in the economy; this would have the opposite effect.
The Supreme Court of Canada has made very strong observations through its decades of experience in hearing cases involving aboriginal offenders. It raised very serious concerns about the overrepresentation of aboriginals in Canadian courts and the inability of the current court system to address the question of aboriginal offenders.
As legal and correctional experts have testified, aboriginal overrepresentation speaks to the failure of the Canadian criminal justice system to address the root causes of aboriginal offending. The point they make is not that no aboriginal should ever be jailed, but rather that due consideration should be made to any evidence of an inequitable effect of any laws or policies on aboriginal Canadians, and that when such an effect is found, those policies should be adjusted.
A year ago, the government finally signed on to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and thereby committed to removing any discriminatory policies and practices and laws that would discriminate against aboriginal Canadians. There is no evidence of that kind of due consideration in the bill that the government has brought forward. There is no evidence that it has given consideration to experts' testimony and submissions made on this aspect of their bill. Study after study, including royal commission reports, judicial inquiries, reports by Correctional Services, coroners' reports, Auditor General reports and recommendations in decisions at all levels of court have urged action on overrepresentation of aboriginals in Canadian prisons.
More aboriginals would be removed from the influence and support of their families and communities. We only need to look at the effect of these measures on the community of Nunavut. Those who are automatically incarcerated under the minimum sentence would be moved a long distance from their community. There has been evidence brought forward that the prisons are already overcrowded, but they would be moved to communities far from their community, thus removing any potential for family or community support or rehabilitation.
In the last Parliament and in this Parliament, we have heard about the cuts over time to community support programs. There have been cuts to the healing centres and to rehabilitation, and closure of the prison farms.
Nowhere is this mistaken path more evident than in the case of the Samson band in Alberta. The Samson band had come to the federal government begging for support to build a centre for its youth so that the youth would be diverted away from increasing engagement in gang violence. There have been sad cases over the last several years of children and community members being killed. The band undertook the effort to do a major review with the RCMP, community leaders and leaders outside the community. The top recommendation was to build a centre and put the programs in place to get the kids off the street and divert them from crime. Instead, very close to them is a prison; that is simply where the youth will continue to be diverted, and crime will continue in their community.
We even had the United Church of Canada calling for greater attention to the discriminatory effect of this law on aboriginal Canadians.
Therefore I call upon the government to rethink and to give consideration. The federal government has unilateral responsibility for first nations Canadians, and I believe it is incumbent upon the government to give closer consideration the discriminatory effect its measures will have on aboriginal Canadians.
View Marc Lemay Profile
BQ (QC)
View Marc Lemay Profile
2009-06-02 13:00 [p.4054]
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from New Brunswick because I will start exactly where he left off.
The fight against drugs, like all battles, must continue on several fronts. That is the problem with the Conservatives and unfortunately it is the trap into which the Liberals have fallen in supporting Bill C-15.
I will say from the outset that we will not support the NDP amendments. We too find that 200, 250 or 300 plants is a fair bit of trafficking. However, we at least were able to ensure that it does not apply to just one plant. They relented somewhat.
That is not the problem. The problem is that we are dealing with minimum prison sentences. The Conservatives have really understood absolutely nothing and will never understand until they are defeated. Perhaps then they will ask us questions in an attempt to understand. They will never understand that minimum sentences do not solve the problem of crime. I hope that I have said it clearly enough and without shouting. I know that they will not get it. I even spoke to the minister about it when he appeared before us. It does not solve the problem. He answered that there would be fewer criminals at large, but that is not true. Minimum prison sentences, and especially Bill C-15, will create many more problems.
This begins with a minimum six months jail sentence. I agree with this, and I will revisit this when we get to the in-depth debate. It is, however, important to stress that minimum prison terms do not solve problems, and never will. The proof of this is that the Conservatives have never been able to table a single study. I can table at least a dozen that demonstrate the opposite, and not from just anywhere either: from the United States, for example. The Conservatives take their cues from the U.S., so let them go and see what is happening there. There are also studies from Australia and New Zealand. They can speak and read English, so they should understand. In the U.S and in Australia, in northern Australia in particular, studies have been carried out since 1992 on legislation that imposes minimum prison terms. That is not just last week. The studies are clear, and I will read slowly to be sure they get it.
Evidence shows that long prison terms increase the probability of recidivism...
I think I will repeat it. These are not my words, they all come from studies.
Evidence shows that long prison terms increase the probability of recidivism... In the end, public safety is more compromised than protected if the courts lock people up and throw away the key.
That is exactly what they are doing. Getting rid of them, locking them up for as long as possible, thanking heavens that they are not getting back out too frequently. Unfortunately, that is not the way things work. I have a little news bulletin for them. They have not been inside a penitentiary for a long time. I do not want to hear that this one was a police officer for 15 years, others Crown prosecutors. They need to have been inside a prison. I can organize a guided tour if they like. We will show them how things work. Not the way they would like them to.
Unfortunately for them, inmates eventually come out. That is where the problem lies. Mandatory minimum sentencing solves nothing. The problem is not when they go to jail—I repeat, not when they are going in—but when they come out.
In other words, they get out too fast. The men—since 90% of the time it is men who serve prison sentences, and the majority of my clients were men—get out too fast. When a judge carefully studies a case, pronounces a sentence and tells the individual before him that he deserves three years in prison, and then eight months later meets that man on the street, we have a problem.
The problem that the Conservatives have yet to understand is that, even if they impose a minimum prison sentence, these men and women will be entitled to parole. Even if an individual is given a three-year sentence, it is not certain that he will serve a minimum of three years. No. The suggestion is for a three-year sentence. What will happen in prison if this is the individual’s first conviction? Suppose he is a good sort who causes no problems? Right: he will be released after serving one third of his sentence.
Those in this chamber who know how to count know that 36 months divided by three gives 12 months. There is no program. Those who know and are following this, apart from the Conservatives who know nothing, should realize that less than 12 months in a penitentiary is not enough time to work with the individual. Why? Because the individual is sentenced to 36 months, but he does not go straight to prison. He goes to a federal reception centre, where he spends three to four months having his case analyzed to see what can be done with him.
The Conservatives do not understand that the problem is not with the highly criminalized individuals. That is not just my opinion. Studies say that the problem is that this does not target the most notorious and most dangerous offenders, who are already subject to very strict sentences, precisely because of the nature of their crimes.
This means that someone who goes around with a gun selling drugs has to serve, from the outset, a sentence of three years. He is sentenced to three years. On top of that is the sentence for trafficking narcotics. Those who tell me they want to get traffickers off the street are correct on this point, perfectly correct. Everyone wants to get traffickers away from schools. However, we can look at the definition in the bill with respect to an individual trafficking near schools. I can guarantee—and I say this honestly—that bad laws make good lawyers rich. Some will become rich thanks to the laws that the Conservative Party wants passed, particularly this Bill C-15. I will give another example. This bill will have a disproportionate impact on minority groups in Canada that are already suffering poverty and privation.
The aboriginal peoples are a good example. Look at the west. There must be a few Conservatives who come from the west. They should go see what is happening in the western prisons, how many aboriginal people are there compared with the rest of the population. They might realize that there may be a problem somewhere. This is what they do not understand.
I have only a minute left, so I will speak quickly. Being tough on crime has never solved anything. Yes, sentences are necessary and criminals have to be taken off the street. However, I repeat: the problem is not when they go into prison, it is when they get out. Let them serve their sentences. The Minister of Public Safety should explain why he is not proposing a bill to amend the Conditional Release Act. That is where the problem is. The judges who pass sentences have taken the trouble to analyze their cases. I tell you that criminal activity is not going to be resolved with this bill. In fact this bill is going to increase it.
View Jean Crowder Profile
NDP (BC)
View Jean Crowder Profile
2009-06-02 13:54 [p.4061]
Mr. Speaker, I know the member for Burnaby—Douglas is very familiar with the circumstances of the bill.
Many of the young people in some of the aboriginal communities who leave their reserves to go to the big cities like Vancouver often drift into an unhealthy and unsafe lifestyle due to the lack of support when they are in those cities. Since we do not have programs in place to support these young people, some of them end up contracting HIV/AIDS as a result of drug use or other lifestyle issues and then go back to their home communities.
I wonder if the member could comment on what he sees as being important in terms of treatment for young people who get involved in the drug trade and then end up having to go back to their communities.
View Brian Murphy Profile
Lib. (NB)
Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure, at report stage of Bill C-2, to deliver some comments to the omnibus crime bill.
I have had the experience of serving on the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights and also the legislative committees that were involved with the former Bills C-10, C-22, C-27, C-32, C-35 and C-23, which is not part of the omnibus bill.
I speak with experience at least with respect to the bills and I understand how we came to be here today to speak about what the bill contains. A lot of discussion took place in the debates of the House and in committee with respect to the direction we should take with respect to our criminal justice.
It is important for us, as parliamentarians, to consider what we do when we amend the Criminal Code and its corollary acts. We are dealing with the Criminal Code. It is an organic document. It changes with the times. It is copied and exemplified by one of Canada's justice ministers and prime ministers, Sir John Thompson, from eastern Canada. It has certainly changed with the times as has our society.
In the 1890s the crimes that were top priority might have been things like cattle and horse theft, murder and some common ones. However, with the changing times, we have seen a proliferation of gang related violence, e-crimes, things that would not have existed at the turn of the century.
The point of raising that is as our society changes and the code changes, we owe it to this place, to the committees, to the law enforcement official, which include prosecutors, policemen, probation workers, corrections officers, people in the correction system and judges, quite a fraternity of people involved in the criminal justice system, to say that we looked at these various laws. We looked at how Canada was changing and at the end, we did the very best we could to keep track of what tools would be best to tackle the new problems that exist in society. It is not as if we are inventing new aspects of law. Many of these bills represent an evolution or a progression of laws that already exist.
Just briefly on the guts of the bill, if you like, Mr. Speaker, Bill C-10, which is now part of C-2, was of course dealing with the mandatory minimum provisions which were increased by the introduction of this bill, but they were not increased as much as the government had wanted them to be originally.
I would like to thank the hon. member for Windsor—Tecumseh and the opposition Bloc Québécois critic on the committee as well as the Liberal members on the committee who fought very hard to have some sense reign over the debate with respect to the evidence that was adduced at the committee hearings regarding the efficacy of mandatory minimums in general.
A review is in order. Mandatory minimums existed before the Conservative government was elected. Mandatory minimums were in place for serious crimes with the known aspect of repeat offenders and with some hope, which studies will show one way or the other, that there might be a deterrent and a safety to the public aspect of mandatory minimums.
At least on this side we joined with the Conservatives who, I would say, were very sparse in their acknowledgement that mandatory minimums existed before they came into office, but we joined with them and said that these are good tools for the law enforcement agencies and good tools in the realm of criminal justice.
It is a matter always of how far we go. How far do we go in disciplining our children? Do we take away their favourite toy? Do we ban them from seeing their friends for two weeks? Are we less severe or more severe? Many of us are parents and we deal with this every day. It is our form of the justice system that rules in our own house.
With respect to mandatory minimums, it is a question of calibrating to what extent the mandatory minimums are useful, to what extent do they work, and to what extend should they be increased, if at all.
During the debate process we were very successful in getting the government to get off its basic premise, which is if it is good for the six o'clock news and sounds robust, steady and law and orderish, then it has to be good in the Criminal Code. That is where the slip from the cup to the lip occurred, where it was obvious 90% of the witnesses were saying that the severe mandatory minimums that the government side were proposing would be inefficacious.
We can be as tough as we want, but if it does not work, if it does not make society safer, then we have not posited a good solution to the problems that face our community, and that was the case when we looked at mandatory minimums.
The happy medium that exists in Bill C-2 I think will be borne out, but it is very important to remember that this is an organic process and we could be back here some day soon, perhaps, looking at mandatory minimums in general.
How more timely could it be than in today's Ottawa Citizen, a report called “Unlocking America” is reviewed. In this report, it makes it very clear that the mandatory minimums, one of the many tools used by the American government from the 1970s on when it was felt that the rise in criminal activity was abhorrent, was not as effective as the Americans would have hope it would have been. It left the United States with 2.2 million people behind bars, more than China. The nine authors, leading U.S. criminologists, said that they were convinced that they needed a different strategy.
I am happy to report that as a result of the efforts of the NDP, Bloc and the Liberal Party in general at committee, we did not go as far as the Conservative government wanted to, which was close to where the United States had been which now New York State and New York City admits, is ineffective.
The three effects of imprisonment, and emphasis only on imprisonment, at the cost of crime prevention dollars, if you like, Mr. Speaker, is that the heavy, excessive incarceration hits minorities very hard. In the United States, 60% of the prison population is made up of Blacks and Latinos.
We heard evidence at our committee that there is a preponderance, an over-exaggerated percentage, of first nations and aboriginal people in our jail system, according to their population, which is deplorable. It is overwhelming and undisputed that the negative side effects of incarceration outweigh the potential. That is the two bits on Bill C-10,
On the other bill, Bill C-22, the close in age exemption, was never brought up. Despite all the rhetoric from the government, nothing would save Bill C-22. The issue of sexual consent being given by a person of tender years has never been put forward by any member of the opposition while the Liberal Party was in power.
The close in age exemption was never put in there, so for members of the opposite side to say that finally we dealt with the issue of sexual exploitation of 14 year olds is simply not accurate. The close in age exemption, five years between a person of the age specified, will save many relationships that should not be criminalized.
Lastly, I noted that Bill C-23 was not included in Bill C-2. I have to wonder why.
I live in Acadia. And Bill C-23 included many improvements with respect to choosing the first language of prosecutors during a trial. French is the language spoken by most people in my province. That element was very important to us in Acadia, but the government overlooked this fact.
Why did the government turn its back on the francophone people of New Brunswick in this country?
View Bill Siksay Profile
NDP (BC)
View Bill Siksay Profile
2007-11-26 12:30 [p.1326]
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to Bill C-2, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, also known as the tackling violent crime act.
I have significant problems with this bill and with the Conservative government's approach to crime in general. The Conservatives are adopting a U.S. style crime agenda that says they are tough on crime but begs the question of what measures are actually effective in reducing crime and making Canadians safer. There is a lot of sloganeering but very little that shows these measures would actually make Canadians safer and give us more effective crime legislation.
The measures in Bill C-2 focus on punishment and incarceration. We know this is the least effective part of an approach to reducing crime in our society. Incarceration does not work to reduce crime and more prisons do not reduce crime. The evidence shows that, at best, there is no relationship between increasing incarceration and reducing crime or, at worst, that these approaches increase crime and become counterproductive.
Many U.S. jurisdictions that went down this tough on crime incarceration road have recognized that these measures do not work and have begun to undo them. As has been mentioned already this morning in debate, a recent report titled “Unlocking America” exposes the fact that incarceration has not worked to reduce crime and, in many cases, has increased the violent crime rate.
What does work? We know that more enforcement, more police on the beat, increasing the possibility of being caught and increasing the possibilities for detection and apprehension do work. Unfortunately, this is one place where the Conservatives are breaking a promise to increase the number of police on the beat in our communities.
We know that community policing, increasing the opportunities for police to develop real relationships with members of the community, also reduces crime. We know that prevention measures work. Working to address issues like drug addiction, family dislocation, poverty and providing parenting support, all those measures go toward reducing crime in our society.
We know that parole and release programs work. I was very lucky to have had the opportunity to sit in on a support group for sex offenders in the Vancouver area. I saw the kind of work that happens in that kind of setting. I was very impressed with the way that session proceeded and the kind of support that was being offered. I was also very concerned to hear from those folks that access to psychiatric and psychological support was very limited in the Vancouver area.
We also know that restorative justice programs work. Those programs seek to help offenders assume responsibility for their crime and restore the relationships that have been broken in the community because of that crime. We need more of those programs.
COSA, Circle of Support and Accountability, is a Canadian pioneered post-release program that matches community members with offenders. It is a support and accountability mechanism. Sadly, this program has not received the kind of support it deserves from the government, especially when other countries have adopted it.
Bill C-2 includes provisions in the old Bill C-10 on mandatory minimum sentences for crimes committed with a gun. We know that mandatory minimum sentences, of themselves, do not reduce crime. They do, however, reduce or eliminate judicial discretion, which is the ability of a judge, having reviewed all the evidence and knowing the person involved, to make a decision based on the facts of the case and of the individual involved. This is an important principle. I do not believe there is one judge sitting on the bench who wants to see serious crime go unpunished.
The cost of keeping someone in prison is $94,000 a year. Evidence shows that programs that support someone on parole or a drug treatment program for an addicted criminal are 15 times more effective than incarceration in ensuring he or she does not reoffend.
In testimony before the committee on Bill C-2, the president of the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies, said that the government must stop using prisons as a substitute for mental health services, public housing or shelters for women escaping violence.
Bill C-2 also includes a reverse onus on dangerous offenders designation, that it would kick in after a third offence and that there would be a presumption that the person was a dangerous offender. It would be up to the offender to prove he or she was not a dangerous offender. When we are talking about a dangerous offender designation, we are talking about life in prison.
Reverse onus has very serious implications for our criminal justice system. Having reviewed the testimony presented at the standing committee, I am convinced, as were many of the experts who testified, that this section of the bill would not survive a charter challenge.
When the state is seeking to jail someone for life, the burden should be on the state to prove the necessity of that imprisonment. That is the case with the current law. To put this burden on the person who has been convicted is unjust, to put it simply. It would only increase the inequity of our criminal justice system where wealthy people would be able to muster the resources to mount a case and everyone else would be more likely to fail because they would not have the money to do so. Legal aid costs would skyrocket given the huge costs associated with this type of process.
Why does the bill suggest measures of automatic designation of dangerous offenders only after a third conviction? Surely, if someone is a dangerous offender, we should be looking at dealing with them sooner and ensuring the system has the resources to do that sooner.
Reverse onus has other serious problems. Judicial discretion, which I have already spoken about, would be removed. It would eliminate the ability of the accused to remain silent and it would incarcerate people on the basis of what they might do rather than what they have done. Our ability to predict behaviour is notoriously poor. What it boils down to is essentially a measure of preventive detention.
I want to support very strongly the motion put forward by the member for Windsor—Tecumseh to delete the provisions of reverse onus that are included in Bill C-2.
I also want to point out that aboriginal people are already overrepresented among those who have been designated as dangerous offenders in Canada. Twenty per cent of the dangerous offenders are aboriginal and this would increase as a result of the bill. Something is seriously wrong with this measure when 20% of those subject to it represent a group that only represents 3% of the total population of Canada. This legislation would only make this problem worse and it would also increase the family dislocation and social costs that aboriginal communities already experience because of incarceration rates.
Bill C-2 also includes measures on the age of consent, and I have already spoken extensively about this. I believe the existing age of consent legislation is excellent and comprehensive legislation. This bill would criminalize sexual activity for young people, especially those 14 or 15 years of age. No matter what we think of young people being sexually active, I do not believe the criminal justice system is the place to deal with that issue when a consensual, non-exploitive relationship is involved.
We must be smart on crime. We know enforcement, parole, community programs, social programs, addressing inequality and a change in our approach to drugs do work. Drugs are a significant factor in both petty crime and serious violent crime. Alcohol prohibition did not work and it caused exactly the same problems that we now face due to drug prohibition. We need more treatment programs for addictions and more harm reduction measures, not more jail time. That does not work.
Bill C-2 goes in exactly the wrong direction. It buys into a model that has been proven to have failed in the United States where many jurisdictions are already seeking to undo the damage done by this exact approach. I have very serious reservations about this legislation.
View Maria Minna Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Maria Minna Profile
2007-11-23 13:12 [p.1304]
Mr. Speaker, that is an indication of exactly what I was trying to say. We cannot deal with the amendment without dealing with all the other aspects I was discussing. With all due respect, what I was saying was very much appropriate. If we prevent crime in the first place, we do not have to get to the point of having to have reverse onus at all.
This is very important with respect to youth. Chile has an agreement with Quebec to take the Quebec model and to use it in Chile. Maybe the government might want to learn something from some of our own provinces and how they are applying prevention and rehabilitation so we do not get to the point of discussing the issue of reverse onus.
We must address the growing problem of domestic violence in the country as well. I know the hon. member does not want to hear about it, but the reality is that 53% of all women who are victims of a violent crime were victims of a common assault, 13% were victims of sexual assault and 11% were victims of assault with a weapon. Not all of these are preventable, necessarily, but most of them are if we were to spend some money in education with respect to problems with domestic violence. However, the government instead has chosen to cut and to change the mandate of the Status of Women Canada and eliminate not only the issue of equality, but the research and advocacy needed in this area and the kind of work that is required. The United Nations has pointed that out already.
Again, in order to change a social condition that exists in our country, we have to ensure that these kinds of crimes can be prevented. However, the government does not seem to be interested in these things.
We all know that women are considerably more likely than men to be victims of violent crimes, such as sexual assault and criminal harassment.
Women are also more often victimized in their homes, in communities and in prisons, as we have seen more recently. There were 224,000 women who said they feared for their lives as a result of a violent spouse. These are things that can be assisted. Rehabilitation will work in those areas in many cases. We should look at the conditions of poverty, mental health and other situations.
Furthermore, aboriginal women are more than three times likely to report being victims of spousal violence than their non-aboriginal counterparts, 24% of aboriginal women, or almost a quarter.
Due to the often cyclical nature of domestic violence, women involved in abusive relationships are often caught in a revolving door of abuse and refuge. The government is doing little to nothing in the way of prevention. In fact, it has gone the other way around. Portions of this omnibus bill attempt to do that, but I do not think it addresses it to the extent we need.
The government has proposed an American style “three strikes and you're out” law to jail certain offenders indefinitely. In fact, those particularly affected would include aboriginal women with addictions or histories of abuse who have acted out in violence and have inadequate access to healing. Again, these are areas of prevention; women who are incarcerated, larger numbers in the aboriginal communities. A great deal of issues are not being addressed by prevention.
In part, the government is criminalizing the poor and mentally ill as a result of this rather than ensuring access to affordable housing, incomes, training, support, mental health services and assistance. Mental health is one of the areas that receives the least attention and the least funds whenever it comes to health dollars. Yet more than 50% of all those incarcerated, as we know, have mental health issues. Again, this goes to prevention and it goes to the civility of the society.
According to Statistics Canada, the number of Canadians spending time behind bars increased in 2005-06 for the first time in more than a decade. This increase is due to the larger number of individuals in remand, serving time waiting their trials or sentencing. In fact, the number of adults in remand rose 12% in 2005-06. This means that for the first time, the number of Canadians awaiting their trial or sentencing outnumber those serving actual jail time.
The result is that offenders are spending less time in custody because courts are giving credit for time spent in remand when determining the length of a sentence and no rehabilitation is taking place while they are there.
If the Conservative government is so tough on crime, why is it that jail sentences for those found guilty of a crime is decreasing, while time spent in jail for those waiting to have a fair trial is increasing? Again, while they are waiting for justice, no rehabilitation is being offered at this time, which goes to the problem of recidivism.
It seems that the Conservatives' attempts to play partisan games with the Criminal Code is holding up more than legislation in this House. It is also holding up Canadians' rights to fair and speedy trials.
The number of women serving jail time is also on the rise. In fact, the fastest growing prison population worldwide is women. In particular, it is racialized. These are young, poor women and women with mental and cognitive disabilities. These escalating numbers are quite obviously linked to barriers in health care, education and social services. Again, these are areas that the government is ignoring, quite deliberately. Again it goes to the issue of rehabilitation, which means that we would not need to use the reverse onus or the draconian kinds of laws that we are so bound to use.
The number of Canadians incarcerated in 2005-06 was 110 per 100,000, which is a far cry from the United States where it is 738 per 100,000. The Americans have been going down the road of incarceration for many years and, in fact, they are beginning to look the other way because it has not worked. Increasing the jail population does not work. It does not prevent crime. It does not help to rehabilitate criminals. It does not reduce crime on our streets.
I would really like to challenge the government on this. Not only does the reverse onus not work and, as other members have mentioned, may not be constitutional, but, more important, it does not address the problem of the security of our communities, which is the main point.
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