Mr. Alcide Simard (Lac-Saint-Jean):
Mr. Speaker, I want to re-read the question I put to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General (Mr. Cardin) last January 18:
Could the hon. minister tell us whether his department intends to exercise its prerogative of absolute pardon in the case of a person who has committed only one offence during his life?
In the few minutes at my disposal, I wish to put forward the main reasons which motivated my question.
At a conference on criminality, under the sponsorship of a Quebec welfare council, some outstanding experts on criminology agreed unanimously that, in some cases, a criminal record may stand in the way of rehabilitation.
The members of that panel were Messrs. Julien Chouinard, Yvan Migneault, Quebec's deputy minister of justice, as well as Messrs. Thomas Tremblay and Noel Dorion. Along side those distinguished lawyers were seen doctors, social workers, psychologists, probation officers, welfare officials, even police officers.
Last November 26 in he Soleil one could read this:
The chief justice of the Court of Sessions of the Peace, Mr. Thomas Tremblay, and a well-known criminal lawyer, Mr. Noel Dorion, deplored last night that the federal cabinet is no longer called upon to exercise its privilege of absolute pardon which makes it possible to erase completely the criminal record of a citizen who, for instance, has committed only one offence in his life.
At that conference, Mr. Dorion pointed out that as a Conservative member in Ottawa he had submitted a bill to destroy the record of an offender who had not committed any offence over a period of five years.
Since the hon. members of the time had boycotted his bill, his deduction was that only public opinion could conquer the inertia of certain members of parliament, when confronted with such important matters.
Mr. Yvan Migneault, Associate Deputy Minister of Justice, quoted a provision in our Criminal Code which, according to him, discourages rehabilitation completely; it is the section dealing with persons convicted of impaired driving. A $50 fine is the penalty for a first offence, but if there is a recurrence, the law provides for 14 days compulsory imprisonment; I submit that, instead of spending 14 days in jail, the man's driving licence should be suspended for two years.
Another section of the Criminal Code provides for imprisonment when a convicted person is unable to pay the fine; this measure was also labelled discriminatory by two members of the panel.
Mr. Dorion explained that a convicted person who could afford to pay a $50 fine, for example, did not have to go to jail, whereas a poor person could not get out of it.
Proceedings on Adjournment Motion
In view of the opinion expressed by such distinguished lawyers and criminologists, I feel we can reasonably say that some of the laws in our present judicial system are archaic and outdated, and that it is high time for parliament to draft legislation which will eliminate all types of discrimination and place the emphasis on rehabilitation of the citizen who makes an unfortunate mistake, perhaps only once in his lifetime.
What are the views of the hon. minister in this respect?
[DOT] (10:40 p.m.)