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View Marc Lemay Profile
View Marc Lemay Profile
2011-03-22 15:20 [p.9115]
Madam Speaker, I hope the hon. minister responsible for this bill will have the opportunity to ask me the same question he just asked the member for Richmond—Arthabaska. He probably would not like my answer. It is time he read something other than newspapers from the west.
View Marc Lemay Profile
View Marc Lemay Profile
2011-03-22 15:20 [p.9115]
Madam Speaker, how many members from Quebec, who represent Quebec in Canada, voted in favour of withdrawing Bill C-12, which is not in the best interests of Quebec? That is my question.
View Marc Lemay Profile
View Marc Lemay Profile
2011-03-22 15:22 [p.9115]
Madam Speaker, you will rarely see me speak to a bill that has not been debated much, in this case Bill C-12.
Usually I speak to matters involving justice and aboriginal affairs. But I had to speak up to denounce what this government was preparing to do in Quebec. I am glad I was in my seat to hear the question by the Minister of State for Democratic Reform. He knows absolutely nothing about the situation. In Quebec, we talk about two solitudes and I can say that the minister responsible for this matter belongs to a very large solitude. I hope he will be the only one in the House to vote in favour of this bill, but unfortunately that will not happen.
The idea behind Bill C-12 seemed interesting at first. Some of the provinces are out of balance. Some have a larger population now and should be given more seats in order to have slightly greater representation in the House of Commons. Perfect. So far, so good. But things go downhill from there. The minister should listen and understand this: he forgets that there are two founding nations in the country called Canada and Quebec was one of them. This bill is a vehicle for reducing or even destroying Quebec's contribution to the founding of Canada.
Obviously aboriginal peoples were here first, but two nations took part in founding what is called Canada and those nations are France and Great Britain. However, when I read the preamble of this bill, it is clear that the purpose is to reduce the role or presence of Quebec in the House by increasing the number of MPs from the other provinces.
You have to have done a bit of reading. You have to read about the history that led to the Constitution of 1867, the creation of the provinces, and what was said. It is odd. Some have forgotten what it means. I am not the one who put in section 52. It was there in 1867; it was not written last week.
The Number of Members of the House of Commons may be from Time to Time increased by the Parliament of Canada, provided the proportionate Representation of the Provinces prescribed by this Act is not thereby disturbed.
The minister did not read this. I did not put it in. I will repeat it because I believe that the minister did not understand: “provided the proportionate representation of the provinces prescribed by this Act is not thereby disturbed.” That is not what will happen with Bill C-12. The proportion is not perfect—that is clear—but what the government is preparing to do is to reduce the weight of Quebec.
I will also repeat what Benoît Pelletier said because I believe it is important to point it out. I hope no one opposite or in the federalist parties will think that he is a sovereignist. I will repeat what my colleague from Richmond—Arthabaska said because it is important. Benoît Pelletier said:
But I wonder whether there might be special measures to protect Quebec, which represents the main linguistic minority in Canada, is a founding province of Canada and is losing demographic weight...Why could Quebec not be accommodated because of its status as a nation and a national minority within Canada?
There is something that we find to be of key importance. It was not me; it was the federal government who, through the Prime Minister, tabled a motion to recognize the Quebec nation, except the Conservatives refuse to recognize our language. They refuse to consider the existence of our national culture in the administration of all laws. They refuse to recognize the continuity of our national culture, which depends on our ability to ensure that newcomers embrace it. They refuse to recognize that our society, because it was developed by a different nation, is also different. They refuse to even consider the possibility that Quebec could have a radio-television and telecommunications commission, etc.
What the minister does not understand and what he must understand is that Bill C-12 would indirectly cause the weight of one of the founding provinces of Canada to become reduced. Maybe that is what the Conservatives want. On the other hand, whether the minister likes it or not, this will likely increase support for sovereignty. We do not have any objection to that. If they want to take Quebec's 75 seats, they can take them. It is perfect. We will create our own country next door. That is what we want. So let us go. Stop buying votes at referendum time. Stop renting buses and planes to invite people to come tell us that they love us. As soon as possible after this, at the first opportunity, we will try to pass a bill to this effect.
Being the nice people that we are, we proposed an amendment:
That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following:
“the House decline to give second reading to Bill C-12, An Act to amend the Constitution Act, 1867 (Democratic representation), because the Bill would unacceptably reduce the political weight of the Quebec nation in the House of Commons and does not set out that Quebec must hold 25 percent of the seats in the House of Commons.”
It is not complicated: it is what is provided for in section 52 of the so-called British North America Act. Let us respect section 52 and let Quebec continue to have the same representation as it does at present. Is there no way to find other accommodations for other provinces in their current situations? It is up to the minister to find them.
The minister says that for 20 years the Bloc Québécois has served no purpose in the House. I would respectfully remind him that we supported his first budget, and if we had not, he might not be here. In a few moments, in about half an hour, we shall see what we shall see with a minority government. When something is good for Quebec, we vote in favour of it; when something is not good for Quebec, we vote against. That is precisely the situation. I know that is not what the federalists want, but that is our job here. Over 45% of the population of Quebec has the right to be represented by members, and those members have but one thing to do here, and that is to defend the interests of Quebec. That is what we shall continue to do, whether the minister likes it or not.
View Marc Lemay Profile
View Marc Lemay Profile
2011-03-22 15:33 [p.9117]
Madam Speaker, the minister will not be pleased by my response. It is not true: I do not want to destroy Canada.
Canada is a lovely country for Canadians. I am a Quebecker and my country is Quebec. If the majority of Quebeckers were to decide that Quebec should become a country, then we could talk, nation to nation, something you dare not do with the first nations—and yet you call yourselves defenders. It is not true that we want to destroy Canada.
View Marc Lemay Profile
View Marc Lemay Profile
2011-03-22 15:33 [p.9117]
Excuse me, Madam Speaker.
I will say one thing: it is not true that we want to destroy Canada. This is false. However, the Conservatives are succeeding in doing it. By the way they are acting, they will achieve this goal and we will be there to thank them.
We do not want to destroy Canada. We are here to defend Quebec's interests. This is why we were elected and this is why we will be re-elected, whether you like it or not, if the Conservatives have the gall to call elections.
View Marc Lemay Profile
View Marc Lemay Profile
2011-03-22 15:35 [p.9117]
Madam Speaker, I am not going to give a lecture in law but if my colleague is talking about the Campbell vs. Canada decision, I would tell him that I have read it. We will discuss that outside the House between poker games.
Indeed, proportional representation must be respected. We want it to be known that Quebec is a founder of this country and has to be respected. Ways must be found so that Quebec is not put at a disadvantage if it is necessary to increase the number of seats for provinces that need more. I can understand that, but Quebec must maintain its weight. This is what we want and it is the only thing we are asking for. This is why we cannot vote in favour of Bill C-12.
However, we understand the position. The only thing we want is respect for the fact that Quebec was a founding nation, together with the anglophones from England. Quebec was one of the two founding nations of the country called Canada. We have to work to find ways to do this.
View Marc Lemay Profile
View Marc Lemay Profile
2011-03-10 15:02 [p.8912]
Mr. Speaker, the chief of the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador, leaders of various first nations communities and police chiefs are speaking out about the proposed cuts to police services. The Conservative government intends to cut funding for police services in Quebec by 19% when this essential service is already underfunded.
Why is this government, which claims to be tough on crime, refusing to shoulder its responsibilities in aboriginal communities?
View Marc Lemay Profile
View Marc Lemay Profile
2011-03-07 15:38 [p.8727]
Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to my colleague. I will have the opportunity to come back to this topic later, when I speak to Bill C-60.
My colleague is quite right. Incidentally, the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights is in session right now, and I will return to that meeting following my speech here in the House. There are 16 bills awaiting study by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights and, among them, we are currently examining Bill C-4, An Act to amend the Youth Criminal Justice Act and to make consequential and related amendments to other Acts—also known as the Youth Criminal Justice Act. Our examination of Bill C-4 is nowhere near complete.
That being said, my colleague is probably right to say that perhaps we will not be examining Bill C-60 anytime soon. I found that aspect of the member's position very interesting. The bill contains two series of clauses. One part has to do with the whole notion of self-defence. I will come back to that later. It has to do with section 34 and subsequent sections of the Criminal Code. The second part, regarding the defence of property, has to do with section 494.
Would his Liberal Party colleagues be willing to split the bill? We could drop the whole self-defence part, in other words, the amendments to section 34 and subsequent sections that are far more problematic than the request under section 494 of the Criminal Code. Would they agree that the bill should be split in two in order to study the changes to section 494 sooner, even if it means delaying the passage of the other amendments regarding self-defence, that is, regarding section 34 and subsequent sections?
View Marc Lemay Profile
View Marc Lemay Profile
2011-03-07 15:41 [p.8727]
Mr. Speaker, if I have the opportunity to ask another question, then I will gladly do so. In response to what the hon. member just said, I would say that there were nine bills before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights that died on the order paper when Parliament was prorogued. In the end, three of these nine bills were reintroduced for consideration by the House. Moreover, one of the bills we considered here has to do with online pornography and online predators. I cannot recall the exact numbers because there are so many, but I think that it was Bill C-20 that was recently passed by the House and, in our opinion, should be passed by the Senate.
That being said, Bill C-60 deals with two issues, one of which is very problematic: the use of self-defence to protect one's property. This has always been a problematic issue. The hon. member was speaking about the proposed amendments to sections 34 to 42 of the Criminal Code, which pertain to self-defence. These sections are often subject to interpretation and the courts have rendered many different decisions in this regard. The protection of property, which is what interests me, is addressed in section 494 of the Criminal Code. Under section 494, we may arrest without warrant a person who is destroying our property or that of others. I will come back to this later.
Can the protection of property be distinguished from self-defence? If so, we could pass Bill C-60 to amend just one section of the Criminal Code, section 494. I would like to hear the hon. member's thoughts on this. Perhaps he could speak to us about his party's position, which unfortunately I have not yet heard.
View Marc Lemay Profile
View Marc Lemay Profile
2011-03-07 15:48 [p.8728]
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-60, which came to Parliament rather oddly. The Prime Minister went to Toronto to make an announcement about a man who had been arrested. This government is known for its piecemeal legislation. In other words, if something happens in Toronto, Winnipeg or Vancouver, the government suddenly jumps on it and introduces a bill to amend the Criminal Code.
The problem is that they go about it all wrong. That is the first problem. They amend sections of the Criminal Code. If it is not parole, then it is the parole act, at which point they amend sections on probation, release, etc. They jump from pillar to post and Bill C-60 is no different. We are going to explain the problem to those watching us. It happens. It concerns section 494 of the Criminal Code, which states:
494. (2) Any one who is
(a) the owner or a person in lawful possession of property, or
(b) a person authorized by the owner or by a person in lawful possession of property,
may arrest without warrant a person whom he finds committing a criminal offence on or in relation to that property.
This where the problem begins.
Allow me to explain. Let us just say you own a home or a convenience store, as in the case that led to the proposed amendment now before us. The convenience store owner was robbed. The owner saw the robber some time later and, when he recognized the robber, arrested him. The problem is he does not have the right to do that. It was the poor store owner, Mr. Chen, from Toronto, who was arrested, brought to court, charged with illegal arrest and sentenced. It makes no sense; we know that. However, the legislation says, “may arrest without warrant a person whom he finds committing a criminal offence on or in relation to that property”, in other words, the property he legitimately owns or the property regarding which he is authorized by the owner.
Therefore, you can arrest someone who comes to steal from your convenience store. If you are the clerk at a convenience store and a thief tries to take your money from the cash register, you can arrest him because the law says that you can arrest someone who is “committing a criminal offence on or in relation to that property”. It is not a problem for one person to arrest another who is committing an offence: the former will never be charged. The problem arises, as in the case of the poor man from Toronto, when you arrest someone for a crime committed earlier. The police were taking so long to arrive that he thought it would be quicker for him to arrest the thief. Unfortunately for Mr. Chen, the thief was acquitted because it was an unlawful arrest, and the poor man found himself being charged with unlawful arrest.
Up to this point, it is a good idea to amend section 494 because people are unhappy, with good cause, as they feel that they cannot even arrest someone who has comes to rob them at home.
But a subtle point is being introduced in Bill C-60 and the proposed new subsection 494(2):
The owner or a person in lawful possession of property, or a person authorized by the owner or by a person in lawful possession of property, may arrest a person without a warrant if they find them committing a criminal offence on or in relation to that property and...
This is where the problem arises.
(a) they make the arrest at that time;
It is clear that if someone is robbing a convenience store, they can be arrested. That is not a problem. However, this is what they want us to pass into law:
(b) they make the arrest within a reasonable time after the offence is committed and they believe on reasonable grounds that it is not feasible in the circumstances for a peace officer to make the arrest.
That is going a bit far. This means that the owner of a convenience store, to use the same example, can arrest someone who steals money from the register. This happens often. I had many clients who went into a convenience store to steal. Convenience stores have a strange habit of always putting cases of beer on sale near the door, where anyone can see that a big case of 24 costs $24.92 instead of the regular price. Someone opens the door while another person steals the case of beer. You could say that the convenience store owners are asking for trouble.
If you see someone in the process of stealing, you can arrest them, no problem. However, the bill adds the following: “...they make the arrest within a reasonable time after the offence is committed and they believe on reasonable grounds....” Those two points are important. Not only do they have to make the arrest within a reasonable time, but they have to believe that the police or a peace officer would not be able to get there. That is asking a lot of someone.
The Bloc Québécois is in favour of sending this bill to be studied in committee. We think that section 494 of the Criminal Code should be amended. This poor man arrested someone, knowing that this individual had come to rob him. That happens often. To come back to my example, there is a sale: 24 beers for $12.98. That will surely attract thieves. One of the thieves opens the door of the convenience store and the other grabs the case of beer. The owner of the store did not see him steal it, but after two minutes he realizes that he is missing a case of beer. He opens the door, looks outside and sees someone leaving with a case of beer. Under the current section 494, he could not arrest the individual because he did not catch him in the act. That is what happened in Toronto, but the individual decided that he would still arrest the thief and then ended up in trouble.
We believe that a solution can be found so that this section allows an individual to arrest someone. Clearly, if the owner does not immediately arrest someone who is stealing a case of beer, and if the police are not around the corner, it is over. Those are the two instances where something can be done.
However, we have issues with the bill. If it were only about amending section 494, all of the parties would have passed Bill C-60 to rectify that particular issue quickly. It is a Conservative thing. They are using Bill C-60 to introduce a series of amendments to sections 34 through 42 of the Criminal Code, which have to do with self-defence. And they are way out in left field on this.
We cannot support them in that. There are a number of amendments proposed for sections 34 through 42. It is worth reading some of them. Anyone who has practised criminal law, for the defence or the Crown, anyone who has argued a case will know what this means.
Every one who is unlawfully assaulted without having provoked the assault is justified in repelling force by force if the force he uses is not intended to cause death or grievous bodily harm and is no more than is necessary to enable him to defend himself.
Subsection 34(1) is very easy to understand. If you are attacked, you have the right to defend yourself. But if someone punches you and you use a baseball bat or pool cue to defend yourself, in a bar for example, and you cause grievous bodily harm or even death, that is clearly not a case of self-defence. Someone who is attacked on the side of the road has the right to defend himself. Everyone has the right to defend himself against a violent attack, as long as he does not intend to cause death or grievous bodily harm.
They are trying to force us to accept certain things. The bill would amend section 34 with a new subsection 34(1), which reads:
A person is not guilty of an offence if
(a) they believe on reasonable grounds that force is being used against them or another person or that a threat of force is being made against them or another person;
And there is more. Listen to this:
(b) the act that constitutes the offence is committed for the purpose of defending or protecting themselves or the other person from that use or threat of force; and
(c) the act committed is reasonable in the circumstances.
They dare to add another amendment:
(2) In determining whether the act committed is reasonable in the circumstances, the court may consider, among other factors,
(a) the nature of the force or threat;
(b) the extent to which the use of force was imminent and whether there were other means available to respond to the potential use of force;
(c) the person’s role in the incident;
(d) whether any party to the incident used or threatened to use a weapon;
(e) the size, age and gender of the parties to the incident;
I could go on. What they would have us swallow makes no sense. It is clear we will never, ever accept that.
They want to put every ruling from the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal for Ontario, the Quebec Court of Appeal and the Court of Appeal for British Columbia that ever defined self-defence into the Criminal Code.
With all due respect to the Conservatives, I must say that the concept of self-defence has evolved over time. The definition of self-defence is no longer as open as we thought. We have taken into account the force necessary to repel the attack if, in so doing, the person did not intend to cause death or serious bodily harm. If that is not clear, then it is up to the court to decide. It is not up to us to define the concept of self-defence for the court.
This would also be added:
(f) the nature, duration and history of any relationship between the parties to the incident, including any prior use or threat of force and the nature of that force or threat;
(g) the nature and proportionality of the person’s response to the use or threat of force;
It does not make sense to try to define self-defence in the Criminal Code. We cannot accept that. The courts have given rulings and when people were dissatisfied, they filed an appeal. If they were still dissatisfied, the case went before the Supreme Court, which established, once and for all, the definition of self-defence and how self-defence can be invoked by defendants.
We cannot accept all of this. There are examples of legitimate self-defence. Here is one such example. One of my clients goes into a convenience store—this has happened a few times—except he does not know that this is the fifth time the store has been robbed. Nor does my client know that the store owner has a 12-gauge. For the benefit of my Conservative friends, a 12-gauge is a weapon, a shotgun. So he has a 12-gauge shotgun under the counter. The owner tells himself that this is the last time someone is going to rob his store. My client enters the store and, yes, he goes about assaulting the store owner to steal from the cash register. I am not saying that my client is a charming man or that he should win a Governor General's award. That is not what I am saying. I am saying that my client goes into a convenience store and robs it. He has no weapon. He leans over to reach into the cash register to take the money. What does the store owner do? He pulls out the 12-gauge shotgun and shoots him. He does not shoot him in the head. He does not shoot him in the heart. He shoots him in the legs to make sure this guy remembers him. He does not want to kill the robber. That is what he told the court.
With all due respect, I do not think that this qualifies as self-defence. The court agreed. I defended the accused. The owner came and said all this before the court. Clearly the judge said that his behaviour did not constitute self-defence. What is self-defence? I repeat: self-defence is “repelling force by force if the force he uses is not intended to cause death or grievous bodily harm and is no more than is necessary to enable him to defend himself”. When someone shoots another person in the leg with a 12-gauge shotgun, the courts assume that the person did so with the intent to cause grievous bodily harm. In this example, the man was convicted.
Bill C-60 is well-intentioned in aiming to solve the problem of defence of property. However, a distinction must be made between the defence of property and self-defence. Self-defence applies when an individual is the victim of a personal attack. Motorist A is driving down the highway—and this has happened on more than one occasion—and is cut off by another motorist, motorist B. Motorist A does not like this. He pursues the other vehicle and cuts the driver off. Motorist B parks his vehicle and hits motorist A with a baseball bat. This is not self-defence.
What was well-intentioned risks going nowhere because clearly we are not going to agree to amend sections 34 to 42 on self-defence. There is too much in there. The courts have ruled on the definition of self-defence, on the defence of self-defence. We have to let the courts do their job.
However, and I will end on this point, the idea of amending section 494 of the Criminal Code is well-intentioned and we can work on amending this section so that it does what society is asking for.
View Marc Lemay Profile
View Marc Lemay Profile
2011-03-07 16:09 [p.8730]
Mr. Speaker, that is the $1,000 question. I thank my colleague for his question, and I will try to be brief in my reply.
If we remove sections 34 to 42, Mr. Chen would not be able to benefit from the presumption of self-defence because Mr. Chen was not attacked. That settles the matter of sections 34 to 42. I do not understand why these clauses are being proposed; they should not be there.
Let us now discuss the heart of the matter, section 494. I concur with my colleague that we have to find a solution to the problem. This section states that a person authorized by the owner—we are talking about the man in question—“may arrest without warrant a person whom he finds committing a criminal offence on or in relation to that property”.
We need to find a way to say that he may make the arrest, within a reasonable time, after the offence is committed. This has not been studied or analyzed. If someone leaves the convenience store with a case of beer without the owner or clerk seeing him and, in the next few seconds, that person realizes that a case of beer is missing, goes outside and sees the perpetrator, then I believe that he could make the arrest, even though he did not see the offence being committed. We must find a way to rewrite section 494.
My colleague is quite right to say that we have to avoid such legal mistakes, if we can call them that. Above all we must not introduce piecemeal legislation that addresses individual issues.
View Marc Lemay Profile
View Marc Lemay Profile
2011-03-07 16:13 [p.8731]
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question. He is correct. There are two things. First, there is no need to touch sections 34 to 42 on self-defence. The courts in all of the provinces and the Supreme Court of Canada have issued rulings; there is jurisprudence. Lawyers who have even the briefest introduction to criminal law in the first year of law school learn the definition of self-defence. There is no need to amend these sections.
Second, there is defence of property, which is less clear. Defence of person is self-defence, but I agree with my colleague that when we talk about defence of property there are some grey areas in section 494. At least we will have focused the debate on subsection 494(2) of the Criminal Code. I admit that it is not clear.
If I had had to defend that individual, there would have been a trial, even though we know that you can arrest without a warrant a person you find committing a criminal offence, as is written in the bill. A citizen must witness the offence; he must be there. He has the right to arrest someone he finds committing an offence. The rest, only peace officers may do. But if they do not come, even after being called three times, what does someone do when the thief is drinking a beer on the corner? That is where the public is right. When the committee studies section 494, it will no doubt find a solution. However, we must not be touching sections 34 to 42 on self-defence.
View Marc Lemay Profile
View Marc Lemay Profile
2011-03-07 16:16 [p.8731]
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his question. They might seem to be tough on crime, but they only needed to amend subsection 494(2). They did not need to touch sections 34 and on. That is what irritates me. Bill C-60 was introduced to deal with a specific problem and that is fine. But at the same time, they are trying to meddle in every court decision ever made on self-defence. My colleague from Marc-Aurèle-Fortin has said before that bad laws make good lawyers rich.
If Bill C-60, which amends sections 34 through 42, is passed as-is, lawyers will be laughing all the way to the bank just because they can exploit the wording of this incomplete bill. Let us fix section 494 now and deal with the rest later.
View Marc Lemay Profile
View Marc Lemay Profile
2011-02-14 19:36 [p.8151]
Mr. Speaker, I hope that the member opposite will listen carefully. It is obvious that he does not sit on the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. If he had been in that committee, he would have realized that nine government bills died on the order paper because the Prime Minister prorogued Parliament.
We are waiting to be able to examine justice bills, which we have been expecting in committee for at least four months. We do not need his lecture here. We will support the Conservatives because it is about time that we abolished parole after one-sixth of the sentence is served. I hope that my colleague will be listening to me until 8:15 p.m. because I will get back to this shortly.
My question is the following. Will the Conservatives bring back other bills? We are not the ones who prevented them from moving forward. They are the ones who did not bring them back. Take, for example, the cybercrime bill. When will the government bring it back? We want to know, since we are the ones being accused of holding back their legislative agenda.
View Marc Lemay Profile
View Marc Lemay Profile
2011-02-14 19:39 [p.8152]
Mr. Speaker, we are going to talk about real concerns. I have been sitting in my office since about 4:00 p.m. or 5:30 p.m.—for as you know, I have a hard time getting around—and listening to the debates. It is unfortunate that there are not more lawyers who have practised criminal law in this House, because I think the questions, with all due respect to my Liberal and NDP colleagues, have been way out in left field. I would not go so far as to say way out in a potato field, but almost.
I was elected to the House in 2004 and as early as 2005, people have been saying that one of the major problems concerning crime, criminal law in Canada and sentencing—and it is unfortunate that not every Tom, Dick and Harry understands this—is not that people are serving sentences that are too short, but rather that the Conservatives are always pushing for more sentences and longer sentences than the sentences handed down.
And whether my colleague across the floor likes it or not, Bill C-54 is currently being examined and the Conservatives still want to impose minimum prison sentences all the time.
I hope they will listen to me. The problem is not the minimum prison sentences. When criminals are sentenced in court and the judge takes the time to explain to one of them, to Harry, for instance, that he is being sentenced to 36 months, Harry can go to prison knowing that, if he has no prior convictions, he may serve eight months. The problem is with the one-sixth rule. There is never enough time to begin treating these people.
I would like to explain something for the benefit of my colleagues across the way, the NDP and the Liberals, who have little experience in criminal law. When a criminal is sentenced—Tom or Dick or Harry, for instance—he is sentenced to exactly 36 months in prison. He is then sent to a federal reception centre, where all convicted criminals begin their sentences, and he will spend about three to six months there, for that is where inmates are classified. For example, will he be sent to Sainte-Anne-des-Plaines, Quebec, or to Kingston, Ontario? How does that work?
They look at Harry's case and tell him he will serve his 36-month sentence at La Macaza, a minimum security prison. What does Harry do? He goes. And whether my colleague likes it or not, it could be a medium-security prison or a minimum-security one. So he is in prison, but eight months have already gone by before anything is done with Harry. By the time they look at the case of someone sentenced to 36 months, he is practically released.
The best example is the alleged mafia leader, who is now somewhere between heaven and hell. He was arrested in a huge raid in 2009 and was put in detention. What did his lawyer do? Some lawyers will tell their client not to plead guilty right away, that it is better to wait. Being given a two- or three-year sentence means that when the sentence is handed down, the time already spent in custody will count for nearly double, unless the judge says that it will not count for double. If the judge agrees the time count for double, this is what happens.
The individual's sentence really begins at the moment it is handed down. However, time spent in pre-sentencing custody is taken into consideration.
In our friend Harry's case, he has received a three-year sentence, but he has already been in custody for two months. Two months are taken off, sometimes four. Thirty-six minus four equals 32 months. It takes four months for the case to be looked at because he was sent to the federal reception centre. That brings us to 32 minus four, which is 28 months. Things are going well. This is what happens: one-sixth of the sentence is calculated, regardless of what the Minister of Heritage thinks. He does not understand anything. I know he does not understand anything because no one in Vancouver understands how it works. He is already having a hard time with culture. We will look after culture or maybe agriculture, with all these tubers. Maybe he could look after heritage someday.
I think it is deplorable that they are trying to have us believe that if we eliminate the one-sixth sentence, it will cost more to keep someone in prison. That is a bit hard to accept since it is only normal to expect that a person sentenced to prison will serve that sentence or, at least, will prepare for his release through a parole readiness program. It simply is not possible to prepare a release plan for anyone currently being paroled after serving one-sixth of a sentence.
Mr. Lacroix, sentenced to 13 years in prison, was released after less than two years. It took four months before his case was processed at the federal reception centre. What happened? He is now in a community centre. He will do community service, because that is important for his rehabilitation. However, it would also be important for his rehabilitation for him to reflect a little more than he did when he committed his crimes. Generally speaking, these criminals are not dangerous. They are dangerous to others. They are thieves. We call them white collar criminals.
People generally are not released after serving one sixth of their sentence if they have been convicted of violent crimes, if it is not their first penitentiary sentence, etc. There are a number of examples. However, take the case of someone who was sentenced by a judge for impaired driving for the eighth time. The judge says this time, enough is enough. He sentences the individual to 40 months in prison. That individual is certainly not a danger when he is in prison. Obviously, he will not be drinking when he is in prison. Maybe he will, but I would be surprised. What does that person do when he is in prison? He sits down and watches television. If he is released after serving one-sixth of his sentence, which unfortunately happens far too often, he turns up impaired once again and he may commit another offence such as impaired driving causing bodily harm, or even impaired driving causing death.
If that individual had not been released after serving one sixth of his sentence, if he had worked with counsellors on preparing for his release, things could have been different. Parole should be earned and release should be prepared for. The purpose of Bill C-59 is to prevent people from being released too quickly.
What makes the public angry is not minimum prison sentences; rather, it is individuals who are sentenced to time in prison and who do not serve that time. That is what makes the public angry.
We try to make the Conservatives understand this in committee when they ask us to impose minimum prison sentences. They do not listen because they think that minimum prison sentences will solve the problem. That is the only thing they are interested in. But it is completely false.
All of the studies we have managed to collect, read and analyze show clearly that minimum prison sentences do not solve anything. What helps or makes individuals understand the importance of rehabilitation is to insist they serve their sentences and develop a release plan to prepare for to their return to society. It is unfortunate, but such is currently the case with Bill C-59. I believe the Liberals and the New Democrats want to gain some political advantage by voting against Bill C-59; however, at this stage, it is time—
Mr. Paul Szabo: False, false.
Mr. Marc Lemay: It is all well and good for the hon. member to say that it is false. Let us carry on and I will clarify. I think it is deplorable that the Liberals and New Democrats are trying to gain political advantage from this bill by saying that they need time to examine it. We have been examining it for a year and a half. It is time to act. We know, whether the Liberals and the New Democrats like it or not, that there are no studies and there is no evidence to show that abolishing offenders' rights to parole after they have served one-sixth of their sentence would substantially increase crowding in prisons. It is not true. This would allow the Correctional Service of Canada and the parole board to work with individuals in prison. These individuals would therefore not be sitting there saying that they are not interested in the program because they will soon be released. Why do they say that? Because they can take advantage of their right to parole after serving one-sixth of their sentence since they did not commit a violent crime. They stole from people but that is not serious because they did not commit a violent crime so they have the right to parole after they have served one-sixth of their sentence.
I have heard that about 1,500 individuals could be affected by this bill, which would clog our prisons. I am sorry, but I have looked at the latest figures and that is not true. This would affect maybe 100 or so people a year. In fact, the right to parole after one-sixth of the sentence is served does not apply to just anyone, and that is the problem. It applies to someone who has not committed a violent crime, does not have ties to gangs or terrorist groups and has not committed or been an accomplice in a sex crime. It applies to someone who was not the subject of an order requiring him to serve at least half of his sentence for a drug-related offence. It applies to someone who is serving their first sentence in prison and who is not at risk of committing a violent crime. So that makes a lot of people ineligible. For crimes like robbery, armed robbery, assault causing bodily harm, assault with a weapon or attempted murder, offenders usually receive a sentence ranging from five to eight years in prison, and they are not eligible for this measure. That is the problem. Those who are eligible are repeat drunk drivers, white collar criminals, fraudsters or people who write multiple fraudulent cheques. We have seen that before; there are a lot of them. Anyone who has studied criminal law knows that at a certain point, it is enough. What we are saying is that abolishing parole eligibility after one-sixth of the sentence is served will make people convicted of a crime, and especially judges, understand that their sentences have the possibility of allowing the person to be rehabilitated and released into society.
This has to do with someone who is sentenced to prison. We are not talking about sentences of two years less a day or a few months in jail. We are talking about prison sentences, so two years or more.
This person has to work on his behaviour in order to reintegrate into and become an asset to society. If he was sentenced to 30 months in prison, it will take three months to decide what to do with him and which prison he should be sent to. He knows that he has only about eight months left to serve. And he will want nothing to do with the programs; he will watch television and play pool. We need to go further, and as parliamentarians, we eventually need to study the parole legislation. Now is not the time, but we can come back to the issue of one-third and two-thirds of the sentence.
The Bloc believes that parole should be earned and prepared for. It is not right to think that someone who committed a prison-worthy crime can reintegrate into society at any time without being prepared, without any effort at rehabilitation and without having recognized that he committed a serious crime. If a judge sent him to jail, the crime he committed had to have been serious.
I do not want to go on forever, but I could talk for a few days. Those watching us tonight will realize that, on one side of the House, there are people who believe that some criminals must serve time in prison and must not be released under any condition or by any means. We do not always agree with the Conservatives. However, if not for the persuasiveness of the member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie—the Bloc Québécois leader who has the confidence of 95% of his party—his perseverance, and the fact that he met with the Prime Minister just a few days ago to tell him that enough is enough and it was time to take action, we would not be debating Bill C-59.
It is time that this bill was passed and that the debate was limited, because there is nothing more to be said. I am interested to see that the Minister of Justice is arriving. He knows that I do not agree with the Conservative Party's tough on crime stance and imposing minimum sentences everywhere.
This evening, we will take the first step. We will tell those who are sentenced that from now on they will not be released at any price, at any time and for any crime.
I will be pleased to answer questions about this bill, which we will be supporting.
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