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View Randy Boissonnault Profile
Lib. (AB)
View Randy Boissonnault Profile
2019-06-04 20:11 [p.28541]
Mr. Speaker, I would like to take a moment, as a first-term parliamentarian, to thank each of the hon. members who shared their remarks with us this evening, at the end of their distinguished parliamentary careers. There were many life lessons in those comments. There were many words of wisdom, a few funny stories and indeed things that I hope to be able to reflect on and learn from with multiple mandates in this chamber. However, as members know, that is up to our residents so I look forward to a vigorous campaign this summer and into the fall.
It is the great honour of my life to serve in this chamber and to represent the residents of Edmonton Centre. Therefore, tonight I would like to share my reflections on Bill C-97 and, more particularly, how this 2019 budget says very clearly that our government, budget 2019 and I are here for Edmonton.
I want to start with those people who paved the way for us. I want to start with the seniors and to acknowledge the tremendous sacrifice that seniors have made to build up our communities, to build up our country and, in my case, to build up the city of Edmonton. I honour and respect the wealth of knowledge that they carry with them and the experience and the skills that they continue to contribute and that we want to see them contributing today.
In budget 2019, we recognize the contribution that seniors have made to Canada and we are returning the favour by investing in them. Budget 2019 would help to support their active participation in society, including through work, and would smooth the transition to retirement for seniors when they choose to leave the workforce. I have seen the very good work that the horizons program for seniors has done to reduce social isolation.
I can see the work that we have done to make sure that seniors are able to retain more of the income they now spend. Seniors asked me at the doors why we were clawing back some of the money that they make when they go to work at the Walmart or their kids' school. They asked why we were taking some of that money and we listened. The Minister of Employment, the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development and the Minister of Seniors were very clear. Now seniors will not pay tax on the first $5,000, it is not going to be clawed back from their GIS and 50% of the next $10,000 will also be exempt. That is $7,500 on the $15,000 that seniors make that will now be in their pockets.
Unfortunately, some seniors are penalized. When they try to keep working, they see significant cuts to their benefits. That is why we listened to seniors and changed the program.
As I mentioned, that is why we are making changes to the GIS allowance benefit. It would begin in the July 2020 to July 2021 benefit year.
Our government respects seniors. Seniors are respected in the budget. We listened to them and we took action.
On innovation and jobs, our government and I are building, together with western Canadians, a strong and competitive west by focusing on business development, innovation and community development. We have pledged to do that by increasing support to Western Economic Diversification Canada with a $100-million increase over three years to increase its programming across western Canada. That means more jobs and more investment in companies. It means more companies will be able to scale up in Edmonton, in Red Deer, in Calgary and across the west.
We have also provided $100 million to the Clean Resource Innovation Network that will help make Alberta's oil and gas even greener and even cleaner.
As members know, when tragedy strikes every second counts, and that makes helicopters an indispensable tool for getting people the care they need quickly and efficiently, which is especially true across such a vast region as western Canada. Since 1985, STARS air ambulance, known as Shock Trauma Air Rescue Service, has provided rapid and specialized emergency helicopter ambulance service to patients who are critically ill or injured in communities across Manitoba, British Columbia and Alberta.
STARS has contributed to saving hundreds of lives and it has helped all of us in some of the worst tragedies: helping after the Pine Lake tornado in July 1999; saving people during the floods of Calgary in 2013; providing transportation away from the fires that swept through Fort McMurray in 2016; and, when the nation's heart sank at the Humboldt crash, helping get those survivors to safety.
Our government recognizes the vital role that STARS plays in delivering access to emergency care for the communities it serves. Our budget will put five new emergency medical helicopters in the air, with a $65-million allocation in budget 2019, making sure that STARS can renew half of its aging fleet and continue its life-saving work.
One of the key aspects of this budget, and even this government, is the hard work we do on behalf of all Canadians, including LGBTQ2 Canadians.
All Canadians deserve our respect, and that includes LGBTQ2 Canadians. That is why I am so delighted to state that in budget 2019 we have included, for the first time in the history of this country, an allocation of $20 million over two years for capacity-building and community-level work for LGBTQ2 service organizations in Canada. This means that community-based organizations that have been shut out and not able to apply to the federal government for anything, ever, will now have that opportunity, starting later this summer and into the new year.
I want to pause and thank the Minister of Finance and member of Parliament for Toronto Centre and his team for this historic investment in budget 2019. It did not have to be there, but it is there. I want to thank the Minister for Women and Gender Equality and MP for Peterborough—Kawartha and her team, because that is the department that will flow the money. I want to thank the LGBTQ2 Secretariat that resides in the Privy Council Office. Without its steadfast work, without its coordination, this would not be possible. I want to thank my own team. To each of them, I want to say that they have made history and they will change and save lives.
Why is the pan-Canadian suicide prevention service, money that we put aside for the national suicide prevention line, so important? It is $25 million over five years.
Earlier today, I was at something called Children First. It was a luncheon and colleagues from the other side of the aisle were also there. We each got paired up with a young person, and I was paired up with 11-year-old Ethan from PETES, an elementary school. We started chatting, in front of a hundred of his colleagues. I asked him what he likes to do. He said he was a video games guy; he likes to play, draw and dance. Then I asked him, “When you talk with your friends, what are some of the big things you want adults to fix?” He looked me straight in the eye and said, “Can you stop bullying? Can you stop people from hurting other people?” I asked if he knew someone who was bullied, and he said he was. It scared him. It ruined his life, and he was quiet for way too long. He became really depressed and had suicidal thoughts. This is an 11-year-old kid who was opening up to me in front of a hundred people at a luncheon today. He asked if we can do something to keep more kids safe.
He wanted to make sure that people would listen. He was not sure that if he told an adult, somebody would listen. The people we will employ on this pan-Canadian suicide prevention hotline will listen to people like Ethan, and that is why budget 2019 is going to make a difference in the lives of so many Canadians.
Turning to another pressing issue in Edmonton Centre, it is important that we do better for, with and by indigenous people, particularly urban indigenous communities. About 60% of indigenous people in Canada live in an urban setting, and Edmonton is home to Canada's second-largest indigenous population. That makes indigenous supports in urban settings a priority for me and for our government. We are investing in safe and culturally relevant community spaces, with $60 million over five years to support capital infrastructure in friendship centres.
With budget 2019, our government is on track to end boil water advisories in Canada by 2021. That affects first nations people whether they are in urban settings or across the country. I attended the Kehewin First Nation sod turning in February. By January 2020, that will be the last boil water advisory for any first nation in Alberta.
With the minute I have left, I want to talk about why an urban riding like mine needs infrastructure. We have the youngest city in the country, with an average age of 34, which is putting me on the other side of the young age now. When a city is that young and dynamic, we need infrastructure, like transit. We have invested almost $1 billion in the transit system that would go through my riding all the way to West Edmonton Mall and to Lewis Estates, so that parents can get home to their kids faster, so that young professionals can get to their activities after work, so that our dynamic economy can continue to grow.
In an urban riding like mine, we need to see commerce increase, and we need people to be able to get home to their families. Our government has listened. Our historic investments in infrastructure will continue, with $16 billion a year over the next nine years. That is improving lives. It is making things better. That is why, with budget 2019, our government and I are here for Edmonton.
View Kelly McCauley Profile
View Kelly McCauley Profile
2019-02-26 15:37 [p.25811]
Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to stand to speak once again on Bill C-83, which amends the Corrections and Conditional Release Act.
The Liberals seem to have a long history and a running streak of putting forward bills focusing more on criminals' rights than on those of the victims, and in some ways this bill seems to be another one of those. It is mostly a poorly thought-out bill that provides no resources or thoughts to employee safety among those working in correction services.
The government should have spent time consulting with CSC workers, figuring out how it could reconfigure the prisons and how it would also pay for all of these changes. Bill C-83 is another example of the government making a big announcement and thinking that everything ends at the announcement, that everything is done, without putting any planning behind it.
We have seen this with the government and its infrastructure program. It announces $180 billion in infrastructure spending, but kind of overlooks the fact that $90 billion of it was commitments from the previous government.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer is not able to locate within the budget or the estimates a significant amount of the spending. The Senate committee did a study on the infrastructure spending, and it said that the only metric for success in infrastructure was how much money was spent, not how many roads were built or how many highways were upgraded; it was just how much money was spent.
We see the same thing from the Liberals with their housing plan. They make grandiose announcements, standing in this House again and again to say it is $40 billion. Kevin Page, the former parliamentary budget officer, reported that it is actually about $1.5 billion. The Prime Minister and the parliamentary secretary responsible for housing stood up in this House and said that a million families have been helped under this plan, believing that if they just make an announcement, then everything happens. It turns out that if we look at the departmental results plan, it was 7,500 families helped, not a million.
We see this again and again. Bill C-83 is no different. I will get to that later.
There are some things in Bill C-83 that I can support. The Liberal government is much like a broken watch, which is correct twice a day, and sometimes the government can be correct in its bills. The bill calls for body scanners to prevent contraband and drugs from getting into the prison. I fully support that. I wish the Liberals would modify it so that everyone coming in gets a body scan.
However, I do have to agree with the people I have talked to at corrections services. Why are we trying to stop drugs, but at the same time bringing in and handing out needles to the prisoners? These are needles that we have heard are being used as weapons against CSC workers.
I also like the fact that Bill C-83 gives more consideration to indigenous offenders. It is no secret that the indigenous population is overrepresented in prisons, and that has to be addressed, so I do agree with that measure. However, there are too many parts of the bill that would negatively impact the safety of corrections officers.
We all know of the Ashley Smith situation, which was a tragedy, and the government should do everything in its power to prevent such an occurrence from happening again. However, a poorly thought-out plan and an underfunded bill that just bans segregation is not the answer.
We have to keep in mind that it is not just inmates who are committing crimes who are going into segregation. Often it is a victim. They are put in there to assure their safety by moving them away from their abuser. They obviously do not want to name their abuser because of prison rules, so to speak, so the assaults continue unless the victim is moved into segregation. Unfortunately, that person eventually has to desegregate back into the prison system or change prisons. Nothing in Bill C-83 addresses that issue.
A CBC report says segregation is not the deterrent it once was. Prisoners now receive all of their possessions, their television and all of their belongings, within 24 hours of being put in segregation. Another CBC report quoted a couple of corrections officers. One of them stated that whereas the more violent inmates used to be in separate containers, now they are all in one bag, so they are just waiting for one to go off. That sets the rest of them off, and they end up with murder, stabbings, slashing, and officer injuries higher than ever.
Another one is saying that the inmates can get away with a lot more than they used to in the past, and that contributes to the growing violence and the crisis in corrections. Another says that all removing segregation does, especially disciplinary segregation, is soften reprisals for bad behaviour. Inmates know there is one less tool for corrections officers to use to maintain order and ensure their own safety.
In September 2017, with respect to a provincial study that I imagine would also cover federal, the CBC reported a massive upswing, a 50% increase, in inmate assaults over the five years that segregation had been removed or reduced.
Under this proposal, whenever inmates move from segregation to have their additional hours in the open, two officers will be needed to escort them. I have to ask where those resources will come from. If I look at the manpower figures in the departmental plan for the Correctional Service of Canada, which shows what its budget would be several years out, I see that the figures are identical in 2021 to what they are now. We are planning all this extra work for the officers, but there is no plan to provide extra officers. In fact, if we look at the plan, which has been signed off by the Minister of Public Safety himself, we see that the Liberals have cut the number of officers on staff from what it was when the Harper government was in charge. Again, where are the resources coming from?
As well, where are the added dollars coming from to renovate these new cells? I have heard the Minister of Public Safety stand and say that there is $80 million from the last budget and $400 million in the estimates. That is fine, but when we look at the departmental plans, again we see that from last year in 2017 to this year, the Liberals have cut $152.5 million from corrections services, and in the next couple of years, they are cutting an additional $225 million.
If they are spending $400 million on renovations and resources and the end result is $225 million less, where is the missing $600 million? I am sure the Parliamentary Budget Officer will be unable to find where this money is, as was the case with the missing infrastructure money.
Getting back to the departmental plans, these plans lay out the priorities for the government for this department. Again, the plans are reviewed and signed by the Minister of Public Safety. In this plan, there are 20 priorities, yet not a single one mentions or addresses officer safety or the safety of anyone working for corrections services.
The government, when discussing Bill C-83, brags about how it is the first time ever it has given the head of Correctional Services of Canada a mandate letter. I looked at the mandate letter. There are 1,400 words in the mandate letter for the head of the CSC. Let us keep in mind the government is so proud of this letter. Of the 1,400 words, 24 are about victims of crime, and just 52 are about the safety or well-being of corrections officers. The 52 words include this gem: “I encourage you to instill within CSC a culture of ongoing self-reflection.”
Can members imagine an inmate coming at them with a knife or a needle? What would their response be? If we looked it up in the manual, we would find “self-reflection”. Self-reflection sounds like something that would be more appropriate after being confronted after having groped someone at a concert, not when dealing with inmates in a criminal institution.
The president of the union of correctional officers, Rob Finucan, described how a guard in the Millhaven Institution was slashed across the face with a shard or knife. Why? It was because of the new rule that inmates can only be handcuffed in front and not behind. The inmate was cuffed and being moved to segregation. He had a shard of glass or a knife with him and cut across the face of the officer. Luckily, the officer's eye was not lost, but that happened because of rules we are putting into effect without any consideration for the officers.
In the minute I have left, I will end with the money set aside for mental health for inmates in the last budget. No one can argue with that, as it is obviously a very important issue.
Money has also been put aside for mental health for RCMP officers. There is 40% more money put aside per capita for inmates than for RCMP officers. That sums up the government's priorities in a nutshell: more money for criminals, less for the RCMP and less for our valued officers in prisons.
I think it is time for the government to show some self-reflection on this issue.
View Judy A. Sgro Profile
Lib. (ON)
Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to stand and add my voice in support of Bill C-83, a piece of legislation that would make a number of changes to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act. I am pleased to lend my support, as my colleagues have also done.
Bill C-83 proposes a number of important things. It creates the concept of patient advocates, as recommended by the inquest into the tragic death of Ashley Smith. Many of us in the House are very aware of the inquest and what happened to Ms. Smith, and the difficulties. We are very hopeful that Bill C-83 is going to help remedy some of those problems and prevent that from happening to some other young person.
The bill is meant to support inmates who need medical care, and ensure that they and their families can understand and exercise their rights. It would enshrine in law the principle that health care professionals working in the corrections system are autonomous and make decisions based on their medical judgment, without undue influence from correctional authorities.
It would enshrine in law the requirement that systemic and background factors be considered in all decisions involving indigenous people in custody, and it would expand the section of the law requiring the correctional service to be guided by respect for the diversity of the inmate population.
It would allow victims who attend parole hearings to access audio recordings of the proceedings.
It would create the legislative authority necessary for the Correctional Service of Canada to use body scanners to interdict drugs and other contraband, something that has been a problem for many years. There are people who have had to endure strip searches and so on. Having the body scanners would make it better for both the correctional service folks as well as for inmates. This technology is both less invasive than methods such as strip searches and less prone to false positives than the ion scanners CSC currently relies on.
It would also replace the current system of administrative segregation with structured intervention units, or SIUs, as they are referred to. This new system would ensure that when inmates need to be separated from the rest of the prison population for safety reasons, they would retain access to rehabilitative programming, mental health care and other interventions, something that was not happening before.
The bill deals with serious and challenging issues, and it is to be expected that Canadians and members of Parliament will have differences of opinion about them. So far, however, the Conservative contributions to this debate have been incredibly disappointing. At times, the Conservatives have blatantly contradicted themselves. For instance, in his speech, the member for Yellowhead complained that the changes made by the bill to administrative segregation are insignificant and superficial. However, in the very same speech, the very same member said that those very same changes would endanger inmates and staff. Which is it? Do the Conservatives think the bill is insignificant, or do they think it is catastrophic? It cannot be both.
At other times, the Conservatives have simply chosen to ignore the facts. They have been complaining over and over again that the government has not allocated resources to implement the bill, when they know that is not the case. On page 103 of the fall economic statement, issued by the finance minister last November, there is $448 million allocated to support amendments to transform federal corrections, including the introduction of a new correctional interventions model to eliminate segregation.
Also in November, the government sent the public safety committee a written response that went into more detail about the funding.
That response says that if Bill C-83 is adopted, the government will invest $297 million over six years and $71 million ongoing to implement the structured intervention units. The funding will be dedicated to providing focused interventions, programs and social supports and will include access to resources such as program officers, aboriginal liaison officers, elders, chaplains and others. That is in a document that all members of the public safety committee have had for over three months.
The document goes on to say that the remaining amount from the fall economic statement, $150.3 million over six years and $74.3 million ongoing, is for mental health care. That includes assessment and early diagnosis of inmates at intake and throughout incarceration, enhancements to primary and acute mental health care, and support for patient advocacy and 24/7 health care at designated institutions.
Again, this is all from a document that the Conservatives also have had since the fall, so when they complain about a lack of resources, they are either being disingenuous or they just have not had time to read the report.
The Conservatives' contributions to this debate have also been characterized by an unfortunate amount of self-righteousness. They position themselves as champions of victims, but it was legislation passed by the Harper government in 2015 that prohibited victims who attend a parole hearing from accessing an audio recording of that same hearing. Their bill said that victims who want recordings have to stay away from the hearing itself.
Parole hearings are often difficult experiences for many victims of crime, full of emotion, and the law should not expect them to retain every word of the proceedings at a time when they are immensely frightened and nervous and in an unfamiliar environment. The legislation before us today would finally let all victims access those recordings, whether they attend in person or not.
The Conservatives also position themselves as champions of correctional employees. Let me remind the House what the national president of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers said in 2014. Kevin Grabowsky was head of the union at that time, and he said, “We have to actively work to rid the Conservatives from power.” He said the Harper government was endangering correctional officers with changes to the labour code, cuts to rehabilitative programming and policies that resulted in overcrowding in federal prisons.
The main question raised at committee by both correctional officers and the Union of Safety and Justice Employees, which represents other CSC staff such as parole officers, was whether Bill C-83 would be accompanied by sufficient resources to implement it safely and effectively. As I have already made clear, the answer to that is a resounding yes.
Finally, the Conservatives' interventions in this debate have been reminiscent of the very worst of the Harper approach to the legislative process. They have been actually attacking the government for listening to stakeholder feedback and accepting some of those amendments. Under the Harper government, that kind of openness was unheard of, but I am proud to support a government that lets legislators legislate.
I thank all members who have engaged in a serious study of the bill and proposed thoughtful amendments, which is exactly what Canadians sent all of us here to do.
We have before us legislation that would make correctional institutions more effective and humane, accompanied by the resources needed to implement it safely. It is important that we move forward and pass the bill at this time.
View Pam Damoff Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Pam Damoff Profile
2019-02-21 15:48 [p.25642]
Mr. Speaker, I stand here today with a great deal of pride to speak for a second time in support of Bill C-83, which would amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act.
Bill C-83 would strengthen our federal corrections system, making the rehabilitation of offenders safer and more effective. Crucially, the bill would end the practice of administrative segregation and establish structured intervention units, or SIUs.
I am extremely proud to have had the opportunity to work on this legislation at committee stage and I commend the government for introducing this important piece of legislation.
This legislation will be transformative for our federal corrections system. My friend Stan Stapleton, the national president of the Union of Safety and Justice Employees, said when asked by the media about this bill, that
There is evidence that shows that strong rehabilitative programs make communities safer and create a safer environment for both employees and offenders inside institutions. ... And so if we simply lock them up and throw away the key, we're not providing them with the tools that they require in order to safely reintegrate back into society.
I could not agree more.
The new measures introduced in Bill C-83 will create safer institutions and safer communities. By creating SIUs as a new approach to replace administrative segregation, introducing provisions for spending more time outside the cell, empowering health professionals and providing enhanced programming to offenders in these units, we will better equip offenders for safe reintegration, reduce their likelihood for recidivism and ultimately make our communities safer.
I am incredibly proud of our work at the public safety committee on the bill. We listened to feedback from witnesses and experts and worked across party lines to bring back to the House a strengthened Bill C-83. We listened to testimony from a diverse range of stakeholders and took their feedback to heart.
In addition, every party that submitted amendments to the bill saw some of theirs accepted. I would like to highlight some of those changes now.
The most significant amendment is the one I have introduced today at report stage, which would provide independent oversight of the new structured intervention units. I will not ever forget hearing the Speaker read that amendment into the record today.
My amendment would create an independent external decision-maker who will monitor a number of factors for inmates in SIUs, including whether inmates avail themselves of the time out of their cells or if there is a disagreement with a health care provider's recommendation to transfer an inmate out of an SIU.
With this amendment, if an inmate does not receive the required minimum hours outside of the cell or the required minimum hours of human contact for five straight days or 15 days out of 30, the independent external decision-maker can investigate whether the Correctional Service has taken reasonable steps to provide opportunities for those hours, make recommendations to the Correctional Service to remedy the situation, and if the Correctional Service has not acted accordingly after seven days, the decision-maker can direct it to remove the inmate from the SIU and give notice to the Correctional Investigator.
In addition, the independent external decision-maker will also have the power to review cases and provide direction in the event that the senior Correctional Service health care committee disagrees with the recommendation of a health care provider to transfer an inmate out of an SIU or alter conditions of confinement.
Finally, the independent external decision-maker will conduct a review of each offender's case after 90 days spent in an SIU and every 60 days thereafter.
The creation of an external oversight mechanism was supported by the majority of witnesses we heard at committee. I am so pleased that we were able to respond to their input and move forward with this vital independent oversight mechanism.
I applaud the government for listening and agreeing to the amendment, which would provide more confidence in SIUs and how they will function.
In addition to this report stage amendment, the committee made other amendments to the bill. We heard from indigenous groups who called for changes to the definition of “indigenous organization” to ensure that it properly captured the diverse range of those working on these issues across Canada. While the parties had some variations as to how best to do this, with the assistance of departmental officials the committee was able to unanimously approve an amendment that calls for indigenous organizations to have predominantly indigenous leadership. We also heard about the need for the Correctional Service to seek advice from indigenous spiritual leaders or elders, particularly in matters of mental health and behaviour. I was pleased that my amendment to that effect was adopted at committee.
The bill would also enshrine in law the principle that offender management decisions must involve the consideration of systemic and background factors related to indigenous offenders. However, our committee heard testimony that these reports can be misused in corrections to impact risk assessments. My amendment to ensure that these reports would not be misused was also adopted by the committee.
The member for Saanich—Gulf Islands introduced several amendments that would return the threshold of “least restrictive” measures, while maintaining the protection of society, staff and offenders, to the corrections legislation, a provision that had been removed by the Harper Conservatives. I promised the hon. member that I would work with her on amendments to Bill C-83, and I was extremely happy that the committee was able to include her amendments in the legislation.
We supported the amendment of my NDP colleague, the member for Beloeil—Chambly, which specified that corrections must take note of any reasons given as to why inmates did not avail themselves of time out of their cells.
We heard from corrections officers that they did not always have the skills or training to deal with mental health issues, so an amendment by the Conservative Party that would explicitly allow staff to refer a matter to health care professionals was a welcome addition to the legislation.
Indigenous offenders are the fastest-growing prison population. However, the member for Whitby highlighted to me that black offenders are the second-highest prison population, and their unique needs must also be addressed.
In addition, during my visit to a number of corrections facilities in Edmonton, a year ago January, I had the opportunity to meet a trans inmate and learned about their experience navigating the corrections system. I was pleased to introduce an amendment that would expand the guiding principles of CSC to respect sexual orientation, gender identity and expression and ensure that the service would be responsive, in particular, to the special needs of visible minorities.
My colleague from Toronto—Danforth introduced an amendment that would further define meaningful contact so that it would not be limited to physical barriers, an amendment that would enhance record-keeping, and an important amendment that would strengthen the role of health care professionals. Finally, we amended the bill to include a five-year review by Parliament.
There are two areas that were beyond the scope of the legislation but that the committee wanted to highlight for corrections. One is the fact that there are only 10 women in all of Canada currently in segregation, while there are 340 men. Therefore, we have asked Corrections Canada to review a proposal for a pilot program in women's institutes. We also used this opportunity to draw attention to the challenge offenders face when placements or transfers mean that they are located long distances from critical support systems.
We heard from many witnesses that significant investments in corrections would be required if SIUs were to work. The entire concept rests on the premise that there are adequate staff to ensure that offenders receive time outside their cells and the health care services and programming they need. With the $448-million investment in the fall economic statement to support this new approach, we have both the legislative framework and the financial means to transform how corrections functions.
This is a case of the parliamentary process working at its very best. We had government legislation that was transformative in its approach, witnesses who passionately shared their concerns and suggestions, committee members who worked diligently as a team, a minister who listened and responded, and a Prime Minister and government that were not afraid to let committees do the good work they are meant to in this place and amend the bill.
I also feel incredibly privileged, as the member for Oakville North—Burlington, to be able to introduce a major amendment to the bill, here at report stage, that would enshrine independent oversight in Bill C-83.
I know there are those who are skeptical about whether this system will work. However, I believe in my heart that under the leadership of our Minister of Public Safety and the new head of corrections, Anne Kelly, along with the fine men and women working in corrections, we will see transformative change in our correctional system.
I want to finish by thanking all the witnesses who appeared before committee; my fellow committee members; our chair, clerk and analysts; our staff, and in particular, Hilary Lawson, from my office; the Minister of Public Safety and his staff, in particular, Michael Milech; and everyone else involved who worked tirelessly on this legislation.
I urge all members of this House to support Bill C-83.
View David Anderson Profile
View David Anderson Profile
2018-06-18 23:49 [p.21227]
Mr. Speaker, I have a number of questions I want to ask tonight to kind of wrap this up.
One of the main questions, as I sat here and listened tonight, is that I fail to understand why the Liberals do not even seem to know the basics of what this proposed law is about. I heard a number of things this evening that are concerning. They do not seem to know what the past requirements were for background checks. I heard a number of people talking about that. They do not seem to understand that they have been adequate in the past. There has been a good system in place for doing background checks, and it has worked well for Canadians. They do not seem to know that firearms owners have to be registered and be licensed themselves in order to own a firearm. Earlier we heard someone ask why we treat guns differently than some other things. Well, the reality with firearms is that one actually needs to be registered. One has to take the course and get the certification.
I was really concerned a little earlier about why the Liberals approach firearms owners in the way that they do. When the member for Oakville North—Burlington said that all gun owners are law-abiding until they are not, I wondered what she meant by that. There is some sort of attitude of superiority that the Liberals come with in regard to firearms owners, and we have seen this for 25 years. We saw it with Bill C-68 and the fact that they would never back down on that legislation. It cost them dozens of ridings across this country. Several elections later, they have come back with another piece of legislation. I think we are beginning to see both in Ontario, and with the results in Quebec tonight, that the attitude the Liberals have is starting to irritate Canadians. I think we are going to see a response to that, and an even better response from our perspective, in the next federal election.
Also, I do not think the Liberals understand that there is no right to firearms ownership in this country. I think everyone needs to be reminded of that. The only reason that we can own firearms is because the government gives us permission. When I talk to my friends with the Canadian Wildlife Federation on those kinds of things, they say that we need to help Canadians understand that. We do not have a right to own firearms. If we do not get licensed, we are criminals. They resent that, but they will accept the fact that we need to have a licensing regime in place.
Another concern is that I am wondering why those Liberals who have firearms owners in their ridings do not seem to be willing to listen to them. I want to point out that at the committee, the leader of the opposition in the Yukon legislature was not allowed to speak. I am told that there was not a single northern Canadian who was able to testify on how the bill would impact their way of life. I want to read a little from his briefing, which said, “unlike the provinces, Yukon only has one Member of Parliament. This leads to situations where the input of Northerners is often an afterthought and not taken into account. This is the case with this piece of firearms legislation..”.
I can tell members that there are others. I have another notice on this situation from members of the Yukon Fish and Game Association, who are very concerned that they cannot track down their MP and talk to him about this issue. This is a member who has been around on this issue before. He should be standing up for his constituents. Why is it that the Liberals in the rural ridings, the ones whose constituents depend on having access to firearms for much of their livelihood, are not speaking out?
As my colleague mentioned earlier, we heard about a few of the ridings where there was concern about this, but these Liberals need to speak out. We are getting to the end of the proposed legislation, and it is basically the re-establishment of a semi long-gun registry, where every transaction that takes place at a gun store is going to be recorded for 20 years. The firearm, serial number, the name of the person who bought it, along with their PAL number, will be recorded. That certainly has all the makings and all the components of a firearms registry, and we do not hear anything from the other side.
Another concern is why the Liberals always need to manipulate things on this file. I can go on about this for a long time. I found it very interesting that the public safety minister from Regina has appointed a number of people to the firearms advisory committee who are clearly against firearms in any way, shape, or form. It is interesting that one of them was appointed and ended up being in the vice-chair position. She was a lobbyist. She said she would step down from her lobbying activities. The agreement she signed said that she is not to “engage in lobbying activities or work as a registered lobbyist on behalf of an entity making submissions or representations to the Government of Canada on issues relating to the mandate of this committee”. However, 10 months after signing that, this person submitted a legislative demand to the Government of Canada under the letterhead of that organization, and with her signature on it.
I would go through it if I had more time, but many of the bill's provisions happen to be exactly as she has laid them out. Is she actually doing the government's bidding, or is the government doing the lobbyists' bidding, who have said they are not going to lobby the government and then turn around and do it?
I can give members another example in which the government has felt some sort of necessity to manipulate every piece of data it can on this issue. That is around the issue of statistics. As Mark Twain said, “Facts are stubborn things, but statistics are pliable.” With the Liberal government, that is certainly more true than almost anything else we can say about it.
It was mentioned earlier that 2013 had one of the lowest rates ever for firearms crimes. It is interesting that even CBC recognized that the Liberals are playing games with this situation. It writes, “2013 saw Canada's lowest rate of criminal homicides in 50 years, and the lowest rate of fatal shootings ever recorded by Statistics Canada” and “every year since 1966 has been worse than 2013.” The Liberals use a year in which the stats are lower than they have ever been, and then use that to set their base, and compare it to today. Today is still below the 30-year average, but the Liberals' news releases completely mislead Canadians. When the government has to resort to that kind of manipulation and misinformation, we can see that it is not very comfortable with the legislation that it is bringing in.
The article goes on to say that the “homicide rate in 2018 will be similar to or lower than it was...in 2008...or in 1998”, and well below 1988 and 1978, and similar to what it was in 1968. We certainly did not get that from the Liberal press release we saw.
There are a number of other important issues we need to touch on. A member across the way was speaking tonight about the Assembly of First Nations. I wanted to ask him a question. The AFN has said that it was not consulted before Bill C-71 came forward. The AFN also said that the bill violates first nations treaty rights, and that it is going to launch a constitutional challenge. It is interesting to note that we have heard nothing about that, and there has been no response to it from the government. The Liberals claims to want to work with these communities, but when it comes to their legislation, they are very happy to set these communities aside, and ignore what they have to say about it and just go on.
We have heard comment tonight about Bill C-75 and Bill C-71 playing off each other. Bill C-75 has all kinds of penalties that are basically being written off for serious crimes. For things like terrorism, we are reducing the charges. Imagine there being a summary conviction for terrorism activity. The punishment for genocide is being reduced in Bill C-75. The penalties for organized criminal activity, municipal corruption, and so on are being reduced in Bill C-75, and Bill C-71 is making the lives of honest gun owners even more complicated and bureaucratic than ever. Why is the government doing that? Why are the Liberals ganging up on Canadian citizens, while they are happy to leave all of these other gangs to go through life the way they want?
There is another issue around mental health. We heard a member earlier tonight talk about how proud she was of her amendment. I am sure she had good intentions when she put it forward, but we are not just criminalizing activity anymore; we are criminalizing possible intent. She mentioned that CFOs will make the distinctions. How are the CFOs going to decide if someone is suicidal or not? What CFO wants to take on the responsibility for the entire province in trying to find every person with a mental health issue? It was pointed out earlier that there are police and veterans who have PTSD who want some help for their mental health issues. Are they going to come forward? Why would they do that with a bill like this when those kinds of things come into play in their lives and in their careers, and with a tool they use every day in their occupation?
We can be very proud of the record we have. We brought in a number of pieces of legislation, which have been criticized tonight. In terms of youth violence, we brought in the youth justice fund. The guns, gangs, and drugs component of the youth justice fund was launched to focus on the rehabilitation of youth. We created the youth gang prevention fund. We are very proud of that. We supported a national crime prevention strategy, and there is the northern and aboriginal crime prevention fund. We passed bills that dealt with organized crime and the protection of the justice system. We were always trying to protect the victims, while making sure criminals were the ones who paid the price for their crimes.
This bill is a long way from that. Why an entire bill that is supposed to deal with gun violence and gangs does not mention either of those things, and targets normal, law-abiding citizens, I will never understand.
View Yvonne Jones Profile
Lib. (NL)
View Yvonne Jones Profile
2018-05-31 12:52 [p.19970]
Mr. Speaker, for many reasons, I am pleased to rise today to speak to the budget implementation bill. The first is that I really believe this budget is responding to Canadians across the country. We came in as a government with a commitment to consult with Canadians. That is what we have been doing and what we will continue to do. Throughout the consultations, all of us travelled through many communities, towns, provinces, and territories right across the country. We sat at tables in many community centres and listened to what people had to say, because we want to get this right. We want to make sure we are doing the right thing for Canadians.
When we came into office, we made a commitment to the middle class that we would do what is right and bring a better balance to middle-class Canadians, those who work hard and try to support their families, but who always feel they are at an unfair disadvantage. We have been very focused on that in every single decision and measure we have taken as a government.
We also made a commitment to indigenous people that we would right the wrongs of history by entering into a new relationship with them, a relationship based on reconciliation, respect, and that responds to needs and solutions, as we prepare them together. I know a lot of people have been impatient in and outside the chamber as the Government of Canada has taken on the unique and necessary mandate of moving forward in this country, but it is a commitment that we are acting on, and it is making a difference.
We also made a commitment to children in this country that we would do what we have to in order to raise them up out of poverty. That is why we implemented programs like the new child tax benefit, which will help thousands of children in this country get out of poverty.
We also made a commitment to workers in this country that we would continue to grow the economy. When we came into office, Alberta's economy was stagnant and declining. No pipelines were being built and no deals were even being made. We were not seeing economic growth in regions of Canada. In fact, if we go back just a few years, many of my colleagues will remember that we were in a very tough situation in this country in terms of employment, but the Government of Canada did not falter. It stepped up and worked with industry to create jobs and a sustainable future for Canadians.
We diversified not only our populations but our industries. We welcomed many new companies to Canada to establish their bases of operation, companies like Amazon, who today employs hundreds of people across Canada, with the intention of employing hundreds more. We have signed trade deals and we are in the process of renegotiating the NAFTA deal, but in all of the deals, there were benefits for Canadians, for farmers, fishers, those in the auto sector, those creating jobs and trying to get goods to market.
I would never stand here and say that everything is perfect and that all of the problems have been fixed, as very well know that is not true, but I would say this. It is easy to be critical and hard to be positive, but once people make a good case on issues, it is much more effective than dwelling on all of the things they feel are not right. I will provide an example.
I represent a riding in eastern Canada, the riding of Labrador. It is nearly 300,000 square kilometres and much of it is isolated. I fly in and out of a lot of communities in my riding to visit my constituents. When I ran for election some years ago on the southern coast of Labrador, there was no highway connection. Every community was isolated. Today, it not only has highways, but they are being paved. In the last two years, we have invested more than $60 million just to bring those highways to standard, to allow people access to that rural region of Canada, something that nobody ever did before. No governments before were interested in investing in that type of infrastructure.
Today in this country, we have the largest infrastructure program we have ever seen, and what is that program doing? It is helping all Canadians. It is not just investing in larger towns and cities, but all over the country, in indigenous, rural, northern, and urban communities. That is the way it should be, not the minority always being left behind, which is how I have felt for a very long time in the region I serve today.
Today, I look at the budget we are implementing in this country, and I look at how far my riding has progressed in just a few short years. It is absolutely astonishing. In my riding, we are doing more in the fishery today, in terms of job creation and new technology and advancement, than we have ever done before.
I hear people talk about the sharing of quotas and being upset because indigenous people are now being included in fishery allocations. I will be the first one to stand in the House of Commons and say that there need to be more indigenous Canadians involved in fishery allocations, because in many cases those fisheries are on the doorsteps of indigenous people. However, in many cases, a lot of these quotas went to other companies for 30 or 40 years, putting revenues in the pockets of single-based owners and not necessarily seeing benefits come to regions, communities, or populations of people. Is it a bad thing that people want to redistribute wealth in this country? I do not think so, as long as it is fair, balanced, and done in a reasonable way.
I want to speak a bit today about people in the employment sectors. I represent the region that is the largest exporter of iron ore in Canada: Labrador City and Wabush. We went through some really tough times in these communities. We saw a mine close down and hundreds of people who had given their life's work to this company lose up to 25% of their pension benefits, and there was no mechanism under law in this country to protect those benefits for workers.
The Minister of Finance stood in the House and said that, with this budget, we are going to make amendments to the Pension Act and ensure that there is protection of benefits for workers. That is what needs to be done. That is the right thing to do. Who would want to vote against that? After what we have seen happen in this country with Sears workers, steel workers, and other workers, why would one not want to step up and look at ways to protect the pension benefits of workers? That is what is in this budget implementation plan.
In addition to addressing the issues for children, indigenous people, and working people, the budget also makes significant investments in health care, housing, and social programs. We cannot overlook that fact. In Newfoundland and Labrador, we increased the transfers for health care this year. We added $112 million in extra investments for mental health services. I was really proud to be with the Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, the area mental health and addiction services are run out of, and hear that we are going to see mental health beds opening in the hospital and new psychiatrists added in Labrador.
These are things that are valuable to citizens in our country. These are things people in my riding and across Canada have asked for, and we are delivering on them. As long as I am a member here, I will keep listening to what my constituents are saying and keep pushing in the right direction to ensure that, as citizens of this country, they get what is fair and balanced, and are not left behind because they happen to be removed from Ottawa or an urban centre. Just because someone is northern, rural, or indigenous, that does not mean he or she should not get the same benefits in this country.
View Murray Rankin Profile
View Murray Rankin Profile
2016-05-17 15:41 [p.3486]
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate your thoughtful ruling and your recognition that this is indeed a historic event and, as you said, a generational issue. In Motion No. 1, I have suggested that we delete clause 3 of the bill, which is one of the central features of it.
The Supreme Court's ruling in the Carter case was a watershed moment for many Canadians, especially those who had fought so long to have their suffering recognized and their autonomy respected. I was proud to support the principle of Bill C-14 during second reading. I did so thinking of Sue Rodriguez of Victoria, Gloria Taylor, and Kay Carter, and of all of the others who paved the way for the rights of other suffering Canadians to be recognized by the Supreme Court and by Parliament.
While I was proud to support the bill in principle, at the time I raised serious concerns about particular provisions in it. Still, I was optimistic that these concerns would be resolved and the bill improved by hearing from experts and making the necessary amendments in committee. Sadly, that was not to be done.
The first day of consideration in the justice committee ended without a single opposition amendment accepted by the Liberal majority. By the end of the week, after more than 100 amendments were proposed, just 16 were accepted. Of course, I am pleased that my amendment was accepted to strengthen the government's commitment to providing more Canadians with palliative care, mental health supports, better services for patients with Alzheimer's and dementia, and culturally appropriate services for indigenous patients. I thank my colleagues from all parties for supporting my amendments to that end. However, many of the handful of changes at committee were simply minor technical changes.
Along with members from several parties, I offered a solution to the glaring flaw in the bill, the elephant in the room, namely the fact that it simply did not square with the Supreme Court's ruling. I proposed using the exact words of the Supreme Court to determine eligibility. That was of course one of the main recommendations of the special House Senate joint committee that addressed this bill. Sadly, all of these proposals were rejected. It became clear that the government had no interest in changing the central feature of this bill. Therefore, does the Liberals' bill square with the Supreme Court decision in Carter? The answer is clearly no.
The Supreme Court declared the two laws that prevented medical assistance in dying:
...void insofar as they prohibit physician-assisted death for a competent adult person who (1) clearly consents to the termination of life; and (2) has a grievous and irremediable medical condition (including an illness, disease or disability) that causes enduring suffering that is intolerable to the individual in the circumstances of his or her condition.
That language defined the circumference set out by our highest court as to who had the right to physician-assisted dying. Outside of that circle, there remains a total ban on assistance in dying. Mature minors, those who have lost or never had the capacity to give legal informed consent, those with solely psychiatric conditions, and those with merely minor medical conditions were never eligible in the Supreme Court decision. However, within the circle are all consenting competent adults with a grievous and irremediable illness, disease, or disability that causes enduring and intolerable suffering.
This bill would erase the circle set by the Supreme Court and draws a much smaller circle within it, covering only those nearing the end of life and facing what is called reasonably foreseeable natural death, a phrase which just recently the Collège des médecins du Québec called incomprehensible from a medical perspective.
A lawyer representing the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association at the court hearings said this to the justice committee, “Bill C-14 cuts the heart out of our victory in the Carter case”. By adding an end-of-life requirement onto the court's ruling, Bill C-14 would revoke the right to choose from an entire class of competent adult Canadians. That group is everyone suffering intolerably from an irremediable but non-fatal condition.
I have constituents in my riding who fall into that outer ring beyond the circle of rights recognized by the government, people who are suffering, who saw their suffering recognized by the Supreme Court and who cannot, for the life of them, understand why the government now insists on removing their right to choose this option.
What justification has the government offered for this disturbing decision? At the House and Senate committee, and again at the justice committee, some argued we could not afford to expand the circle of compassion, that the Supreme Court ruling could not be obeyed in full, that not all those who were granted rights in Carter could see those rights upheld because to do so would pose an unacceptable risk to vulnerable persons.
These are important arguments, but they are not new. In fact, they were advanced ably and in great detail before the Supreme Court of Canada. Here is what the court wrote.
At trial [the Crown] went into some detail about the risks associated with the legalization of physician-assisted dying. In its view, there are many possible sources of error... Essentially...there is no reliable way to identify those who are vulnerable and those who are not. As a result, it says, a blanket prohibition is necessary.
I emphasize this:
The evidence accepted by the trial judge does not support Canada’s argument...The trial judge found that it was feasible for properly qualified and experienced physicians to reliably assess patient competence and voluntariness, and that coercion, undue influence, and ambivalence could all be reliably assessed as part of that process....As to the risk to vulnerable populations (such as the elderly and disabled), the trial judge found that there was no evidence from permissive jurisdictions that people with disabilities are at heightened risk of accessing physician-assisted dying....no evidence of inordinate impact on socially vulnerable populations in the permissive jurisdictions...no compelling evidence that a permissive regime in Canada would result in a “practical slippery slope”. accepted by the trial judge does not support [this] argument.
That was the conclusion of the Supreme Court after considering the evidence and arguments raised in Carter, the very same evidence and arguments that were advanced at the joint House and Senate committee, which I was honoured to serve on, and at the justice committee just last week. After considering that evidence and those arguments, the court issued its ruling in Carter, establishing the right to choose medical assistance in dying for everyone inside a carefully measured circle of eligibility.
Quite simply, there was a large circle of eligibility. The government has chosen within that circle to define a smaller class. It simply cannot do that if we believe in the rule of law, if we believe in the fact that the Supreme Court should be listened to in this case.
In conclusion, I simply cannot support moving any further with a bill that would revoke from an entire class of competent adult Canadians rights granted to it by the Supreme Court of Canada.
View John McCallum Profile
Lib. (ON)
View John McCallum Profile
2011-11-29 13:37 [p.3727]
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to add my voice to the rising opposition to Bill C-10, which is perhaps best characterized as the Conservatives' most recent piece of dumb on crime legislation.
Our understanding of crime and the appropriate way to handle those who transgress the rules of our society has evolved over the past 400 years. We have moved from a time when criminality was commonly associated with witchcraft to a society that far better understands the root causes of crime and better ways to handle criminals.
I am truly dismayed to see the government completely ignore the work being done on these important topics. It seems to be taking us back to the middle ages. That is not just empty rhetoric. Why do I say that they are taking us back to the middle ages?
First, it is obvious that the government cares not a whit about policies to fight the ultimate cause of crime. Second, it does not care about deterrence. If it did, it would have paid attention to a recent study by its own Department of Justice that was released a week or so ago, which provided evidence that longer sentences are not an effective deterrent to crime. Indeed, the results from that study are consistent with international evidence on the topic.
If the government does not care about fighting the ultimate cause of crime, if it does not care about deterrence, what is left? The only thing the government cares about is the principle of retribution or vengeance, and that is why I make the statement that it is taking us back to the middle ages.
The notion of fighting the underlying causes of crime is not at all important to the Conservatives. At the same time, for the reasons I just explained, the principle of deterrence also appears irrelevant to the Conservatives. All that matters to them is the principle of retribution or revenge. In that sense, this bill takes us back to the Middle Ages.
Nobody in the House would deny that protecting the citizens of Canada from harm is the most important objective of government. In fact, the government is granted a monopoly on the use of force for just that purpose, but with that power comes the responsibility to act in an appropriate manner that benefits society.
Our country was founded on the principles of peace, order and good government, and good government means examining all the facts and opinions. It means talking to experts and making public policy decisions that are based on evidence, not knee-jerk ideological desires. Good government also means respecting Parliament's role in public policy debates.
My opposition to this bill stems from its ineffective and ideological nature, and from the government's inability or unwillingness to work with Parliament on this major issue of public policy. I can already hear that familiar refrain from the other side, soft on crime, soft on victims' rights.
Victims' rights and crime are very important and I find the constant use of victims as a shield for this ideologically-driven agenda to be offensive. I believe nobody in the House is opposed to supporting victims of crime. To suggest otherwise is simply insulting to the intelligence of Canadians.
Indeed, I might mention the case earlier today regarding my colleague, the member for Mount Royal, when he presented amendments that would strengthen the provisions in this bill to support victims of terrorism and add to the remedies against those who commit terrorist acts. It seems the government is not going to accept that amendment, but that is a concrete example of Liberals supporting remedies for those who are victims of crime or terrorism.
What does it mean to support victims of crime? It must certainly mean doing our best to ensure that crime does not happen in the first place or that those who break our laws should be treated in a way that will minimize recidivism. That is how we stand up for victims, by working to ensure that we reduce crime as much as possible and also through measures such as proposed by my colleague from Mount Royal.
I have spoken about the Conservatives' crime agenda in general, but I also want to spend some time on this bill in particular. My primary concern with this bill is that it is fundamentally ineffective. According to Statistics Canada, crime is going down both in volume and severity. This should be trumpeted as a success. Crime is going down. Is that not our objective? When the government should be saying the evidence is saying its policies work, it instead says it does not believe the statistics. It claims the numbers do not matter, but they do matter. For the benefit of my colleagues on the other side of this place, I will go over a few of the facts that they choose to ignore.
As I said before, crime is down. Locking people up for longer does not necessarily make them less likely to reoffend, as I said just a few minutes ago. That is confirmed by a very recent study by the Department of Justice that was acquired through access to information. When we are dealing with young offenders, the negative effects of prison are only multiplied.
What the government needs to understand is that this is not just Liberal nonsense or lefty soft on crime rhetoric. Look at our neighbours to the south. The U.S. incarceration rate is 700% higher than ours. It has very nearly reached a point where fully 1% of the U.S. population is in prison. What does that mean for the U.S.? It means it continues to have higher crime rates than we do. It continues to spend billions more on prisons that we do. Some states, such as California, actually spend more on prisons than they spend on schools. Prisons are not the perfect solution to crime. That is simply outdated 18th century thought and nothing more.
For many criminals, prisons have not proven the palaces of reform that the Conservatives promise they will be. For many, it is simply a school for crime. Our prison system is already at its limit. This plan to dump thousands of new offenders into the system will simply break it. Low level offenders will enter the system after convictions for petty crimes and will leave having made new criminal connections and having learned the skills of the trade. That should never be the outcome of our justice system.
Despite all of this tough talk, one of the things we will not hear the Conservatives talking about during this debate is the mental health of our prisoners. It is widely understood by those who study crime that mental health issues are one of the biggest driving factors of criminal behaviour. Taking care of the mentally ill among us has been a failure of all levels of government for decades now.
As of 2007, 12% of the federal male prison population had a diagnosed mental illness. That is a 71% increase over 1997 and those figures are even worse for female inmates. Our prisons are not supposed to be substitute mental hospitals. In fact, I struggle to find a worse place for a mentally ill person.
Currently, aboriginals are incarcerated at a rate nine times that of non-aboriginal people. I believe that is simply unacceptable. Like most prisoners, they are in prison for non-violent property or drug offences. Time and time again we have seen that the solution to this vicious cycle is not more prisons.
I have covered some of the negative social costs of this dumb on crime agenda, but it is also important to talk about the fiscal costs.
The opposition has been asking the government for detailed cost estimates for its crime agenda. We have received nothing from the government except empty rhetoric. This is unacceptable. Parliamentarians are both policy-makers and the ultimate keepers of the public purse. We have a right to know the costs of the legislation that we are asked to support.
There is another consideration, and I will borrow a term from American politics: unfunded mandate. Yes, there will be significant federal costs, but we cannot ignore the impact these changes will have on provincial governments. These legislative changes, taken in concert with previous changes, will lead to many new provincial inmates at costs borne solely by the provinces.
The government has shown little respect for Parliament and its role, and it is also showing very little respect for provincial governments and their budgets.
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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