Thank you, Mr. Chair and colleagues.
It's indeed a pleasure to be able to appear on my private member's bill, an act to amend the Criminal Code (increasing parole ineligibility), Bill C-266, the short title of which is the respecting families of murdered and brutalized persons act.
I originally introduced this bill in the first session of the 41st Parliament as Bill C-478. I was promoted in 2013 to parliamentary secretary for defence and had to drop my private member's bill, even though it had received second reading and had been sent it to committee.
The bill was picked up in the second session of the 41st Parliament by our former colleague Colin Mayes, who was the MP for Okanagan—Shuswap, as Bill C-587. It made it through committee, but then there was dissolution of Parliament for the 2015 federal election and that put an end to the bill's moving forward.
This bill amends section 745 of the Criminal Code of Canada to give the power to our judicial system to increase parole ineligibility up to 40 years from the current maximum of 25 years for those who commit a crime of abduction, sexual assault and murder.
Right now, there are charges for all those crimes, under sections 279, 280, 281, 282 and 283 of the Criminal Code for abduction, while sexual assault charges are defined under sections 151 to 153.1, 271, 272 and 273 of the Criminal Code, as well as murder in the first and second degree.
What this bill will do is give the full discretion to our judges and juries. After an individual is convicted of crimes, the judge must ask the jury if they “wish to make a recommendation with respect to the number of years that the accused must serve before the accused is eligible for release for parole”. It is not mandatory for the jury to provide a recommendation, and the judge is not beholden to the jury in taking the recommendation, should it be made.
I know there are some concerns around whether or not this violates section 12 of the charter regarding cruel and unusual punishment. I should state again that this is strictly judicial discretion. The parole ineligibility period can be set at anywhere from 25 years up to 40 years, based upon the discretion of the judge. When determining the parole ineligibility period, the judge must have “regard to the character of the offender, the nature of the offences and the circumstances surrounding their commission”.
I modelled my bill after former Bill C-48, the Protecting Canadians by Ending Sentence Discounts for Multiple Murderers Act. Again, that piece of legislation has stood up to a charter challenge and afforded judges the ability to extend parole ineligibility periods for multiple murder convictions. Rather than having them concurrent, they are now served consecutively.
The way I came up with 40 years for parole ineligibility for the commission of a crime that involves the abduction, sexual assault and murder of an individual, it's on that same transaction. Again, looking at consecutively serving that sentence, for murder, it's 25 years without parole, while abduction faces a maximum parole ineligibility period of 10 years and sexual assault faces a maximum parole ineligibility period of 4.6 years. That's how I arrived at 40.
I can't stress enough that this bill targets the most depraved of our society. It targets those who have never received parole, so we aren't doing anything to further punish the criminal. This is about sparing the families from appearing at unnecessary parole board hearings.
As you know, right now, even if somebody has a life sentence for committing a crime, they can, at year 23, start applying for parole. All too often, we've witnessed that when these individuals apply for parole, they use it as an opportunity to feed their depraved nature and revictimize the families. That's why I brought this forward. It was to be compassionate to the families who have gone through these ongoing, unnecessary and extremely painful Parole Board hearings.
When it comes to the type of criminal this targets, we're talking about criminals like Michael Rafferty and Terri-Lynne McClintic, who abducted, raped and murdered Tori Stafford; Paul Bernardo, who back in the 1990s abducted, raped and murdered Leslie Mahaffy and Kristen French. One of the things that really drove me on this was, if you remember back in 2009-10, the ongoing investigation in the arrests of Terri-Lynne McClintic and Michael Rafferty. It was all over the news. As a father of three daughters, it really hurt me knowing that this poor little girl had suffered so badly.
Clifford Olson, at that time, was diagnosed with cancer and was dying in prison. I was driving around in my riding listening to CBC and they were talking to Sharon Rosenfeldt, whose son, Daryn, had been murdered by Clifford Olson. Clifford Olson applied for parole on three occasions. First he used the faint hope clause which existed at that time, and then at year 23 and year 25, he applied for parole again. He used those opportunities to describe in graphic detail how he murdered the Rosenfeldts' son. He would send letters to them, hoping that they'd appear at the Parole Board hearing so he could describe how he killed Daryn.
We know that these individuals never get parole. Parole boards have been very consistent that these psychopaths are never released, so why would we put the families through these ongoing and unnecessary Parole Board hearings? They feel obligated to be there, to stand up for the rights of their loved one, to read their victim impact statement and ensure that the Parole Board never forgets about the heinous crimes that these individuals have committed.
We're also talking about David James Dobson, who murdered Darlene Prioriello. I worked quite closely with Darlene's sister Terri on this bill. Donald Armstrong abducted, raped and murdered Linda Bright back in 1978, and Glenna Fox. David Threinen abducted, raped and murdered Dahrlyne Cranfield, who was only 12 years old; Robert Grubesic, who was nine; Samantha Turner, who was eight; and Cathy Scott, who was seven years old. He died in custody.
We're talking about the Russell Williams, the Luka Magnottas, the Robert Picktons. More recently, in Toronto, Bruce McArthur killed eight men. He abducted them, raped them and then brutally murdered each and every one of his victims.
Mr. Chair, how much time do I have?