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Results: 1 - 8 of 8
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 Kevin Sorenson Profile
Madam Speaker, it is a real pleasure to speak to Bill C-75, an act to amend the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and other acts and to make consequential amendments to other acts.
I have real concerns about the legislation, as do many stakeholders, including the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police.
First, this is another omnibus bill, containing 302 pages of major reforms to our criminal justice system. For our constituents, that means we need to study 302 pages of legalized legislation. Similar to many other Liberal promises, this is another broken promise, as the Liberals promised not to bring forward omnibus legislation.
It also signals very clearly, the Liberals' reluctance to allow for a thorough review and debate on the modernization of the criminal justice system, including reducing court delays and judicial proceedings, an extremely important debate given the current congestion within our courts, which is resulting in serious offenders having their cases thrown out.
Second, the bill would somehow undo the mandatory victim surcharge that our Conservative government imposed in 2013 under the Increasing Offenders’ Accountability for Victims Act.
The federal victim surcharge is a monetary penalty that is automatically imposed on offenders at the time of their sentencing. Money collected from offenders is intended to help fund programs and services for victims of crime.
We made this surcharge mandatory, recognizing that many judges were routinely deciding not to impose it. While we did recognize that they were doing so with some offenders who lacked the ability to pay, we believed it should be imposed in principle to signify debt owing to a victim.
Like any penalty, fine or surcharge, if people do not have the means to pay, they do not pay. However, it is the principle of the matter, and many times the guilty party does have the ability to pay some retribution to the victim.
The Conservatives strongly believe that the protection of society and the rights of victims should be the central focus in the Canadian criminal justice system rather than special allowances and treatment for criminals. This is why we introduced the Victims Bill of Rights and created the office of the victims ombudsman.
On that note, I would like to thank Sue O'Sullivan for her tremendous efforts on behalf of victims. Ms. O'Sullivan, who retired as the victims ombudsman in November 2017, had a very distinguished career in policing before being appointed to this extremely important position in 2010.
We created the ombudsman's office in 2007 to act as an independent resource for victims to help them navigate through the system and voice concerns about federal policy or legislation.
While we placed such high regard and importance on this office, the prolonged vacancy in fulfilling the position after Ms. O'Sullivan retired demonstrates very clearly what the Liberals think of the office.
In April of this year, more than four months after Ms. O'Sullivan retired, the CBC revealed the frustrations of many victims and victims advocates, including that of Heidi Illingworth, former executive director of the Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime.
Ms. Illingworth said:
...the community across Canada feels like they aren't being represented, their issues aren't being put forward to the government of the day...Victims feel that they're missing a voice. The people we work with keep saying, why isn't somebody there? Isn't this office important? Who's speaking for victims... who's bringing their perspectives to the minister?
I would like to congratulate Ms. Illingworth for those sentiments, which I think may influence the government, and also for her appointment on September 24 as the third victims ombudsman for Canada.
Third, Bill C-75 would effectively reduce penalties for a number of what we on this side of the House, and many Canadians, deem serious offences. The Liberals are proposing to make a number of serious offences that are currently punishable by a maximum penalty of 10 years or less hybrid offences.
Making these hybrid offences means they can be proceeded in court by other indictment or summarily. Summary offences are tried by a judge only, are usually less serious offences and have a maximum of two years imprisonment. These hybrid offences will now include: causing bodily harm by criminal negligence, bodily harm, impaired driving causing bodily harm, participation in activities of criminal organizations, abduction of persons under the age of 14 and abduction of persons under the age of 16.
As pointed out in their testimony before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police expressed significant concern about the proposal to hybridize the indictable offences. It said:
These 85 indictable offences are classified as “secondary offences” under the Criminal Code. If the Crown proceeds by indictment and the offender is convicted of one of these 85 offences, the Crown can request that the offender provide a DNA sample for submission to the National DNA Data Bank (NDDB).
If these 85 offences are hybridized...and the Crown elects to proceed by summary conviction, the offence will no longer be deemed a “secondary offence” and a DNA Order cannot be obtained. The consequence of this will be fewer submissions being made to the NDDB. The submission of DNA samples to the NDDB is used by law enforcement to link crime scenes and to match offenders to crime scenes. Removing these 85 indictable offences from potential inclusion into the NDDB will have a direct and negative impact on police investigations.
I realize that due to the pressure exerted by the Conservatives, last night I believe, two offences, primarily the terrorism offences, have been taken out of this and it is now 83 offences with the two terrorism-related offences being removed. However, according to the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, the uploading of DNA taken from 52 indictable or secondary offences, which are among those initial 85 to be made hybrid offences, resulted in 221 matches to primary offences, including 19 homicides and 24 sexual assaults. At the very least, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police is recommending that this significant unintended consequence of Bill C-75 on hybridization be rectified by listing these 85 indictable offences as secondary or primary offences so DNA orders can be made regardless of how the Crown proceeds.
We watch CSI and other programs and we see the importance of this new type of science and technology. However, now the Liberals are saying that these 85 offences are no longer important for the DNA database.
Last, I would like to talk about the intent of Bill C-75 to incorporate a principle of restraint as it relates to circumstances of aboriginal accused and other accused from vulnerable populations when interim release decisions are made.
Section 493.2 places an unreasonable onus on police officers at time of arrest to make a determination on whether an offender falls within this classification. Furthermore, and more important, it wrongly uses the criminal justice system to address the problem of overrepresentation of indigenous peoples within the criminal justice system. Instead, the government should be dealing with the socio-economic and historical generational factors that are contributing to this problem.
I, unfortunately, do not believe that the Liberal government has any intention of redressing the plight of our indigenous people in any meaningful way and will continue to fail in this regard despite its promise of reconciliation and renewed relationship.
As chair of the public accounts committee, our Auditor General came with two reports this spring. The objective of one audit was to determine whether Employment and Social Development Canada managed the aboriginal skills and employment training strategy in the skills partnership. To make a long story short, the Auditor General said that when the government was dealing with many of these programs for indigenous people, it was an incomprehensible failure.
It is unfortunate that the government is using this one part of Bill C-75 to address the overrepresentation of indigenous people in our penitentiaries.
View James Bezan Profile
View James Bezan Profile
2015-02-04 16:40 [p.10707]
Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to speak at report stage today in support of Bill C-32, the victims bill of rights act. This bill would change how victims are to be treated by the criminal justice and correction systems in Canada. It acknowledges their suffering and recognizes that they too have rights that must be respected.
The Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights heard testimony from numerous witnesses who described the importance of this legislation. Many shared their own difficult stories of victimization and expressed their appreciation for the changes that the Canadian victims bill of rights would bring to other victims who will follow.
The committee also heard from those who provide victims with much needed services. They too offered their support for the bill, explaining that the rights contained in the Canadian victims bill of rights and the accompanying amendments to the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act would improve the experiences of victims.
The victims bill of rights presents a completely new approach for victims of crime in Canada. There have been many questions about how the bill would actually work and how it would be implemented. This is understandable given its transformative nature.
I would like to take the opportunity today to address three issues that were the subject of discussions at the standing committee: the definition of victim, the steps that we will take to ensure awareness of the rights created in Bill C-32, and the enforceability of those rights.
Regarding the definition of a victim in Bill C-32, the committee heard from witnesses who felt that the definition was overly broad, as well as those who felt that it was not sufficiently inclusive. Concern has been expressed about how a definition of victim in federal legislation would co-exist with the definitions of victim found in provincial and territorial victim legislation. We also heard questions about why the bill contains more than one definition of victim and what each purports to do.
As members will know, Bill C-32 includes the new Canadian victims bill of rights and proposes amendments to four federal statutes. The Canadian victims bill of rights portion of Bill C-32 includes a broad definition of victim. This definition recognizes the various kinds of harm that an individual may suffer as a result of an offence, even if the offence were not committed against him or her personally. The definition acknowledges that individuals other than the direct victim can be victims of an offence. All the rights included in the Canadian victims bill of rights can be exercised by a direct victim, as well as others who have suffered harm, such as family members.
The bill would also amend the definition of victim in the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act to ensure that those definitions align with the definition of victim in the Canadian victims bill of rights.
The first part of the proposed definition in the Criminal Code recognizes the same forms of harm that a victim of an offence may suffer as the Canadian victims bill of rights does. Under this part of the definition, only a person who has had an offence committed against him or her is a victim for the purposes of most Criminal Code provisions.
The second part of the Criminal Code definition includes individuals other than the direct victim for the purposes of certain Criminal Code provisions, including the victim impact statement provisions. This is consistent with established case law that recognizes secondary victims for the purpose of these provisions.
The Canadian victims bill of rights would not apply to Canadians who are victims of offences committed outside of Canada, over which Canada is not exerting extraterritorial jurisdiction. This is because the rights under the Canadian victims bill of rights all relate to the various stages of the Canadian criminal justice process, from the investigation and prosecution of an offence through to the conditional release process. For example, a victim's right to present a victim impact statement, to have a court consider making a restitution order against an offender, or to request information about an offender can only apply to offences processed through the Canadian criminal and corrections system. It is not possible for Canada to extend those rights to people or to criminal justice processes within another country's jurisdiction.
We have also heard concerns about differences between the definition of victim proposed in the Canadian victims bill of rights and those found in provincial and territorial legislation. Each province and territory has enacted its own victims of crime legislation with its own definition of victim. Some provinces and territories have multiple definitions for various purposes, such as eligibility for specific services or financial benefits programs. I note that this problem of various definitions of victim did not arise with Bill C-32 but is a result of the evolution of victims services in each jurisdiction.
It is simply not possible to have one definition of victim at the federal level that would incorporate absolutely all the different definitions of victim that exist at the provincial and territorial levels. Rather, the bill seeks to create a definition that is inclusive and that recognizes all the different forms of harm that victims may suffer as a result of an offence. These include physical or emotional harm, property damage, and economic loss. Most provincial and territorial definitions include similar elements in their definitions.
I will now turn to the issue of ensuring that victims are able to exercise their rights under the act.
The justice committee heard from witnesses who questioned how victims would be made aware of their new rights under the act. This is a very fair question. All the rights in the world will not benefit victims if they do not know about them.
A Government of Canada website will be developed making information on the Canadian victims bill of rights available to all Canadians. During last year's consultations, numerous stakeholders stressed the importance of a one-stop shop for victims to access information. The Government of Canada website will meet that need.
The committee also heard from several aboriginal groups that are concerned that aboriginal victims would not be able to exercise their rights in the same way as other victims. They noted the disproportionate impact of factors such as poverty, marginalization, and lack of safe housing for aboriginal victims and explained that they would therefore need extra support in order to fully exercise their rights in a Canadian victims bill of rights.
The government recognizes that every victim is different and has different needs. That is why budget 2014 committed to providing funding to the provinces and territories to assist with the implementation of the bill. The government recognizes that the provinces and territories will play a crucial role in the effective implementation of the bill and has been working with them through various fora—such as the meetings of the federal, provincial, and territorial ministers responsible for justice and public safety—to address the implementation issues
We need to continue to work with our provincial and territorial partners to ensure that the Canadian victims bill of rights brings about the changes in the criminal justice and corrections systems that we have promised victims.
I will turn now to the issue of enforceability.
Some have criticized Bill C-32 as nothing more than a statement of principle because they believe the enshrined rights to be unenforceable. This is simply not true.
The victims bill of rights includes a remedial scheme to address an infringement or denial of a victim's rights under the act. This is what distinguishes Bill C-32 from many provincial or territorial victims acts that have been found to be just statements of principle. Under Bill C-32, every federal department, agency, or body involved in the criminal justice system would be required to have a complaints mechanism in place that would review complaints and make recommendations to remedy any infringement or denial of a victim's rights under the act, and they would be required to inform victims of those recommendations. If victims were not satisfied with the recommendations made by the department, agency, or body, they could then raise the issue with an oversight agency where one exists, such as the RCMP public complaints commission. If no oversight body exists for a particular department, agency, or body, a victim could seek the assistance of the Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime, whose mandate includes reviewing concerns regarding noncompliance with legislation or established policies.
Complaints regarding a provincial or territorial agency, including police, the crown, or victim services, would be addressed in accordance with the applicable provincial or territorial legislation. In order to improve the remedies available to victims, the government will provide a limited amount of funding through the victims fund for provinces and territories to enhance or establish complaint bodies for victims of crime.
I hope members of all parties will join me in supporting the victims bill of rights to ensure that victims of crime in Canada receive the recognition and protection that they deserve.
View Philip Toone Profile
Mr. Speaker, the bill before us is definitely a step in the right direction. It is a good starting point. However, it is by no means enough. We will support the bill at report stage because it is a starting point. However, it does not go far enough.
I would like to point out that the NDP has always stood up for the rights of victims. If I may, I would like to go back in time. Even in the 1800s, social democratic parties pushed for the rights of workers who were victims of violence and work accidents. The first protection plan for victims of workplace accidents was implemented in Germany, and it was the social democratic parties that worked very hard for that. That said, I will return to a more recent time.
In 1984, Parliament adopted and enacted the Workers Mourning Day Act. The idea was to commemorate the victims of accidents in the workplace. It was work that was done by the NDP at the time, with the collaboration of other members of the House. It was a great victory for the labour movement in this country.
A good friend of mine, Elizabeth Weir, the former leader of the New Democratic Party of New Brunswick, was able to enact very similar legislation in New Brunswick in the year 2000.
Workers' rights are at the heart of the NDP's mandate. For that reason, I certainly have a great interest in this bill, which will extend rights to victims generally.
I do worry about the bill actually bringing forward too few rights. It seems to be focused more on photo opportunities and the beginnings of a sentiment that victims should have more rights. Regrettably, the bill will actually not enact that many rights for our victims.
Ms. Lange, a victim's mother, has stated that “Beyond the sentencing stage of the process, the victims basically fall off the face of the earth” and that “Rights need to go beyond the criminal process for this bill to even be a bill of rights.”
We did not go far enough. It is just the beginning of a process. I think we need to really develop a true bill of rights and not just one that has the name “bill of rights” and is in fact simply raising awareness that victims should have rights. I think there should perhaps be a better title for this bill.
We need to concern ourselves with the fate of victims. This bill is a start but it is far from adequate. If I could be permitted to speak for a moment about one of the witnesses who testified, I will just say that Ms. Dawn Harvard, the vice-president of the Native Women's Association of Canada, said it really well. I will cite her testimony at the justice committee:
Almost half of aboriginal women in Canada live in poverty. This poverty exacerbates the situations of violence, abuse, and addictions, and often, sadly, leads to incarceration. We have heard talk of the missing and murdered aboriginal women in Canada....
She went to say, very well I think, that:
Fundamentally, poverty is a denial of choices, it's a denial of opportunity, and it's a violation of our human dignity.
That speaks to the victims of this country. Regrettably, this bill does not address the daily expressions of being a victim that aboriginal women especially face in this country.
This bill will give victims an opportunity to address some concerns during some of the criminal proceedings, but even then the actual rights that we are affording them are far from adequate.
First nations are a very good example. Who are these first nations supposed to go to in first addressing their requirement to have rights expressed? Who does a victim of violence in a remote community go to? Perhaps it is the local police, but have the local police been sensitized to the plight of aboriginal women in this country? Will the victims feel confident enough to go to their local police officers to lodge their complaints? Will the police officers know enough to say, “Yes, you have a bill of rights. You have rights, and we will be here to defend them.”?
Nothing in the bill has given any of our provincial colleagues the capacity or ability to ensure that those rights are going to be made available. Once again, the current federal government is saying things that are very nice and look good on paper, but it has not put the resources forward to ensure that those rights would actually be expressed in a daily manner.
I, for one, do not believe that people who live in remote communities in this country will even know that the bill exists. I really wish that the government had taken a bit more time and effort to ensure that all the resources were in place to make sure that victims know that they have rights. They have rights today and through this bill they should have more rights in the future, but we need people to actually know that those rights are going to be there.
In poorer communities—and where I live, there are a number of poorer communities—people do not have the understanding that they can spend their hard-earned money to go and see a lawyer who will then inform them of all their rights. Often people simply cannot afford to take that route. Unfortunately, the bill seems not to make that any easier.
The Conservatives have been talking about this bill since 2006, when they came to power. They have been promising to enact a victims bill of rights since 2006. I will congratulate the government for finally, after eight years, putting it down on paper—not just using it as a photo op, but actually trying to have some real, concrete debate on this matter. Unfortunately, I do not think they went nearly as far as they had expected.
The Canadian victims bill of rights does not designate legal obligations for other stakeholders in the judicial system. It simply provides access to a vague mechanism to file complaints with various federal departments, agencies, and organizations that have a role to play in the justice system when victims have their rights infringed. As a result, when complaints are directed at provincial or territorial organizations, including police or the crown or even a victims rights organization, they will be processed directly under the laws of the appropriate province or territory. There are no specific funds, none, that have yet been attributed for the implementation of the mechanisms that the bill would provide.
I do not understand how the government expects that things are going to happen without resources being put in place. The Conservatives do this all the time. I have seen it over and over again in the bills that I have seen since 2011 in this place. I scratch my head as to what they think the provinces are going to do with these unfunded mandates that we keep sending to them.
I would like to point out that a lot of interesting testimony was brought to the justice committee. I had the opportunity to sit in on many of those sessions. It brings a tear to one's eye to hear the plight of many victims in this country, and they all had justifiable concerns to bring to the justice committee.
I will speak very briefly on some of the issues that were brought up by the Canadian Bar Association, and I will speak specifically to clause 21 in the bill.
Clause 21 would add a provision requiring prosecutors to take reasonable steps to notify victims of a guilty plea. In this clause, we see that the victims will have the right to be informed if the accused pleads guilty during a trial. The problem is that if there is bargaining and the accused pleads guilty during the plea bargaining or during a court appearance, must the trial be terminated? Is the trial suspended until the victims are notified that the accused will plead guilty? Normally this type of bargaining is done very quickly.
Unfortunately, the bill seems to put the brakes on a very efficient justice system. Once again, not only will the bill cost victims money because they will have to find out about this charter, which has value, but all provincial trials will be more expensive.
If anyone would like to ask a question about this during the time for questions, I would be very happy to answer.
View Nycole Turmel Profile
View Nycole Turmel Profile
2014-12-11 16:42 [p.10511]
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity to speak once again to the government's bill to create a Canadian victims bill of rights. This is very important matter to victims and to all Canadians.
The last time I spoke I talked about the NDP's concerns about the limitations of this bill of rights. I agree that it is important to do something about the justice system. We recognize that for many victims, having assurances that they can participate in sentencing and parole hearings and being informed of the status of the prosecution are very important steps. Still, when we speak of victims' rights, we must also ask what victims need in the context of the healing process.
In our opinion, we must truly place victims at the centre of the justice system. They must feel protected, not only physically, but also with respect to their right to be informed, to be heard and to be supported before, during and after legal proceedings.
The government's fine press conferences on this bill will not provide such security to victims. Concrete measures are required, as is co-operation with the provinces. Adequate funding must be provided for the programs and the organizations that work with victims every day. We must consider the victims' families. As I said this fall in my speech regarding the government's bill on sex offenders, families are often seriously shaken up when those close to them are involved in tragic incidents.
At that time, I had had a chance to speak to Mr. Michaud, the director of the Centre d'intervention en abus sexuels pour la famille, an organization that is doing outstanding work in my riding. He told me that family members often feel helpless and are sometimes unable to help the victim at the same time as they are dealing with this trauma themselves.
We know that the presence of a supportive network is essential in order for victims of crime to be able to move on with their lives. Thus, it is important for us to consider the resources and support we can provide to such a network.
I would also point out that women are particularly affected by crime. According to police statistics compiled by Statistics Canada, nearly 174,000 women were victims of crime in 2011 alone.
According to that study, women are three times more likely to be criminally harassed than men. In Canada, in a system where women are increasingly involved in everything and are building their careers, it is very sad to see that women face so much crime and harassment.
Aboriginal women are also affected by crime: 75% of aboriginal girls under the age of 18 have been victims of sexual assault, according to data reported by Radio-Canada. That is unacceptable. However, only one sexual assault in 10 is reported to the police.
That shows women's lack of confidence in our justice system's ability to protect them. Then there are the women who have been murdered or who have disappeared without anyone finding the perpetrators. It is all very sad. Sometimes there is no investigation and the police have trouble tackling this problem.
I will quote some of the comments Teresa Edwards from the Native Women's Association of Canada made on Bill C-32 at the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights:
We have a long way to go, and I really hope this legislation is not just another piece of paper that the government can point to and say it's doing something about victimization. We really need to translate that into action. We're always talking about taking action. I do want to see action. I want to see results, and I want to see measured, concrete steps of how it's actually going to impact the lives of aboriginal women victims, so that we don't have to keep coming here.
It is not a problem that is faced only by aboriginal women. According to author Josée Néron, 50% of Canadian women have experienced violence at least once in their life and only 14% of them filed a complaint. That is the problem: women do not feel confident enough to lodge a complaint. They are afraid of the result; they are afraid that their complaints will not be taken seriously, and this is a major problem in our society.
I wonder how this bill will help Canadian women regain their confidence in the Canadian justice system.
We in the NDP will be supporting this bill because we believe it is a starting point. However, it does not live up to the expectations created by the Conservatives since 2006. Since 2006, this government has been promising us a bill that will really be a step forward, as well as being proactive with regard to violence against women. This is not really reflected in this bill. In fact, we are going to support it, but as I was saying, it does not live up to the expectations of victims or reflect what has been said over the years.
Adopting principles in a charter is an important step, but it must be accompanied by concrete measures if it is to have a real impact. The NDP put forward a number of amendments in this regard, but as usual, the Conservatives rejected them and put their own partisan interests ahead of the interests of Canadians and victims, as I said before.
Even worse, the recommendations made by a number of victims' associations, experts and professionals who testified in committee were simply ignored. The government must not forget that our primary concern is to respond to the real needs of victims. It is clear that this objective has been jeopardized by the fact that the bill creates no legal obligation for stakeholders in the justice system to implement these rights.
It is just as worrisome to note that this bill omits the financial resources that will be necessary for its implementation. However, as the first ombudsman for victims of crime Steve Sullivan said, resources are the key element; I mentioned this at the beginning of my speech. Resources, training and prevention are necessary and indispensable to the success of such a bill. This must not be forgotten. We must ensure that all levels are involved in the implementation of the bill, as well as in providing the necessary resources and budgets for its implementation. If we do not devote the necessary resources to implementing the principles of the bill of rights, we run the risk that it will be nothing but an empty shell, a decorative element in the Conservative Party’s advertising in the next election.
As I was saying, the NDP will be supporting the main motion, because we think that, after years of talking about it, it is time to move forward. However, the government must keep in mind that this is a starting point, not an end point. This is very important.
I would like to mention that this is the first anniversary of the death of someone who was killed last year in my riding, and we do still not know who committed the offence. This is important. I am just giving one example, but there are others. Thousands of people do not report what happened or have simply been victims; we never find out who is guilty and justice cannot be done.
As parliamentarians, it is our responsibility to ask ourselves how we can more fully meet our responsibilities towards victims of crime and their families.
View Sean Casey Profile
Lib. (PE)
View Sean Casey Profile
2014-12-10 17:09 [p.10442]
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to Bill C-32, the bill on victims' rights. I am also pleased to indicate that the Liberal caucus will continue to support this legislation.
As the members opposite will fondly recall, supporting victims of crime has long been a Liberal priority. Specifically, I would point to the Liberal government's 2003 statement of basic principles for justice for victims of crime. This statement was collectively drafted by provincial and federal representatives to modernize basic principles of justice for victims.
As the Department of Justice states, those are the “basic principles continue to guide the development of policies, programs and legislation related to victims of crime. They also provide a foundation for the Policy Centre for Victim Issues' work.”
Further, in 2005, with the hon. member for Mount Royal serving as justice minister, the Liberal government announced new initiatives to support victims, including allowing them to apply for financial assistance to attend the National Parole Board hearings of the offender who harmed them.
I also want to acknowledge that victims' rights is an issue that has drawn multi-party support in the past. The Liberal government's progress built on earlier efforts from the 1988 Progressive Conservative federal government, which also worked together with the country's territorial and provincial justice ministers.
This is the sort of constructive engagement with the provinces and territories that many on this side fondly recall. This type of co-operation for the betterment of Canada has been eroded in recent years.
Bill C-32 contains a number of suggestions for helping Canadians who are victims of crime, violent crime in particular. This bill creates the Canadian victims bill of rights, which provides victims with a substantial number of legal rights.
Even though in many cases Bill C-32 simply codifies existing rights and practices, when it comes to helping victims, I am pleased to side with legal certainty.
What does Bill C-32 seek to accomplish? It seeks to create the rights to information and services that will give victims peace of mind during the criminal proceedings they will be involved in and thereafter. It will clarify the victims right to be protected, to submit a statement, and to obtain restitution from offenders. It will make it easier for vulnerable victims to testify, expand intimidation as a criminal offence, and amend an archaic statute in the Evidence Act in order to compel testimony from the spouse of an accused, a law that has already been subject to a number of exceptions.
However, though we generally agree with what the government seeks to accomplish, we wish the government would have followed the practices of former PC and Liberal governments by accepting advice on how Bill C-32 could have been improved for victims of crime. The committee process could best be described as a missed opportunity.
Bill C-32 is not a perfect bill. A significant problem is that it would increase the obligations on backlogged courts and the demands on prosecutors, without increasing the resources allocated to meet those obligations. In short, the bill would assign new work without providing new funds. Apparently, the government is operating on the assumption that our courts and prosecutors are underworked. Of course that is not the case, and the already overburdened provinces will have to pick up to the tab.
To the point on resources, I would like to share with members one example included in the Canadian Bar Association's recommendations, an example I shared with our Conservative-controlled committee in the hopes that it would seriously consider improving the bill. The example deals with the new requirement that prosecutors attempt to inform victims of plea deals.
I will read a quote from the Canadian Bar Association:
A typical experience for a front line Crown counsel dealing with the proposed legislative change might go like this:
A Crown counsel is dealing with 100 cases on a particular morning where the accused is scheduled to enter a plea. Lawyers for ten of the accused inform the Crown only that morning of a guilty plea.
The Crown has no time to contact victims of the ten accused to tell them of the proposed pleas. When the Court asks the Crown if victims have been informed, the Crown says no, in regard to the ten cases. The Court adjourns those cases, so the guilty pleas are not accepted. By the next appearance, four of the ten accused change their minds about pleading guilty and want a trial. Victims are then required to testify when they otherwise would have been spared the trauma of reliving their experience through vigorous cross-examination.
At committee I introduced an amendment to remedy this flaw in the bill, a flaw that without the provision of additional resources is likely to slow the administration of justice and traumatize a significant number of the victims we are all trying to help.
As the Canadian Bar Association recommended, I suggested that a victim only need be notified of a plea deal where there would be a joint submission on sentencing, that is, the deals that the prosecutors would more likely have made in advance. These are also the deals where the crown would be suggesting a particular sentence rather than a plea to a lesser offence.
What was the Conservative response? Before the Conservatives voted against this particular amendment of mine, the parliamentary secretary and the member for Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe said the following:
We're concerned that this amendment would lead to delays, and would place an undue burden on the crown prosecutor. The system has to function, and for that reason, we can't support this amendment.
The purpose of my amendment was to reduce the wait times this bill will create, but the Conservatives decided to vote against that amendment. I would like them to explain the logic behind that, but then again contradictions are notoriously hard to explain. That is just one of the amendments that I proposed.
In committee, the Conservatives rejected 18—that is right, 18—Liberal amendments that could have improved this bill. They did not reject the amendments because they were bad. They rejected them simply because they were Liberal amendments.
Honourable colleagues, this kind of behaviour is Parliament at its worst. With that in mind, let us look at other amendments the Conservatives rejected.
As I indicated in an earlier question at committee, we heard from a witness named Maureen Basnicki. Ms. Basnicki is a Canadian whose husband was killed in the 9/11 attacks. At committee, she explained that she had experienced difficulty in accessing victims' services because her husband was murdered by terrorists outside the country. She urged us to extend any lawfully available domestic rights to Canadian victims of crime that occur outside of Canada.
I would like to share some of her testimony with the chamber. She said:
....perpetrators of crimes are still demanding their rights as Canadian citizens when they've been successfully prosecuted for crimes outside the country, and I want to bring balance to this. This is not a new step. It's new for Canadians, perhaps, but other countries do this, many other countries. Most other countries do.
After listening to Ms. Basnicki, I introduced an amendment to capture her unfairly overlooked constituency, to grant domestically available victims' benefits to Canadians who have experienced serious personal injury crimes outside the country, or whose family members have been murdered outside the country.
The Conservatives refused to include the victims of the 9/11 attacks in the legislation, and refused to amend it after hearing from Ms. Basnicki.
We also heard from a representative of the Chiefs of Ontario, who wanted to bring some balance to consider the unique circumstances of aboriginal victims in the justice system. All of the amendments proposed by the Chiefs of Ontario were similarly rejected.
Bill C-32 is not a perfect bill, but it is a good bill. It will do good work for Canadian victims of crime, so the Liberals will support Bill C-32 and endeavour to improve on these efforts when we form the next government.
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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