Mr. John Duncan (North Island-Powell River, Ref.)
Mr. Speaker, before us today is Bill C-55. The purpose of the bill is to address those offenders who present a high risk of violently reoffending. As well, we have a new designation of long term offender with a provision of supervision for up to 10 years in the community. That is in addition to the sentence for the offence.
At the outset let me say that the Reform Party will not stand in the way of Bill C-55.
The bill is composed of three components: a new and expanded dangerous offender provision; a new long term offender provision; and a new judicial restraint clause.
The Reform Party supports adding a new definition to the Criminal Code which will deem any person who on two or more separate occasions commits an offence causing serious personal injury to be a dangerous offender and subject to an indeterminate period of imprisonment.
The new dangerous offender provision in Bill C-55 recognizes that the current process by which certain criminals are assigned dangerous offender status and therefore required to serve an indefinite penitentiary sentence is not sufficiently strong to protect Canadian communities against violent criminals. Therefore, Reformers applaud those new provisions in Bill C-55 which expand the criteria for designating violent criminals as dangerous offenders.
Who in the House could find fault in designating a person as a dangerous offender who has been sentenced for armed robbery,
unlawful confinement and shooting at a police officer and who, during a jail sentence, commits a further 40 offences including a stabbing?
Sadly, this was not the case when career criminal Paul Butler was granted day parole in September 1993 in Prince George and then went on to murder Dennis Fichtenberg, the son of a constituent of mine, Marjean Fichtenberg. Despite Mr. Butler's criminal record and an arrest weeks before the murder was committed, the parole board agreed that Mr. Butler posed no risk to society and was not dangerous. Tell that to Marjean Fichtenberg and her family who suffer their loss and whose only satisfaction has been some recommendations made by a coroner's request initiated last year by the attorney general for B.C.
The government had an opportunity in this new dangerous offender provision as contained in Bill C-55 to let the Marjean Fichtenbergs of this world know that she and her family, the victims, have rights too. However as usual, the proposed changes for designating certain criminals as dangerous offenders once again do not go far enough.
Specifically the proposed changes in Bill C-55 would allow the crown up to six months after conviction to bring about a dangerous offender application. Even under the proposed changes this provision would apply only if the crown gives notice at the time of conviction of the possibility of a delayed dangerous offender application and where relevant information also emerges to support the application.
What Reformers want, what the Marjean Fichtenbergs want, and what all level headed Canadians want is for dangerous offender findings to be made at any time after sentencing. To be precise, the crown should be given the right to seek dangerous offender status for persons convicted of crimes causing serious personal injury at any time during that offender's penitentiary sentence. Would 40 offences while in a correctional institution including a stabbing be good enough for the Minister of Justice?
Reformers also propose that Bill C-55 require the courts to automatically place a dangerous offender finding upon any person who commits on two or more separate occasions an offence constituting a serious personal injury offence. This proposal would also include that the dangerous offender be subject to an indeterminate period of imprisonment.
If we are going to begin to address the agony, loss and frustration of the type Marjean Fichtenberg and her family feel, our amendments are essential. We propose a further essential change to Bill C-55 and that is to expand the list of Criminal Code offences upon which a dangerous offender application may be brought about to include pedophiles and sexual predators.
A basic tenet of Reform policy is for violent offenders to serve their full sentence. Once released, some violent offenders and all
repeat offenders should be under parole supervision, and I do not mean unsupervised parole which was applied to Paul Butler and under which he committed murder.
My colleagues have spoken to the long term offender provision. It is incumbent that we broaden the range of offences committed to include sexual predators or pedophiles so that they cannot only be designated long term but can also be designated as dangerous offenders, because many of them are.
The judicial restraint provision proposed in clause 9 of the bill contributes a broad indiscriminate infringement of personal liberty which unduly violates the civil rights of individuals. The judicial remedies proposed in this clause should only be contemplated in matters where individuals have been convicted of offences under the Criminal Code and according to due process of law. We propose striking this clause in its totality.
On the one hand we do not go far enough in the dangerous offender clauses by excluding sexual predators or pedophiles. On the other hand we have the potential of allowing the attorney general to lay information against anyone he believes will commit a future offence, even though the individual may have been acquitted of any charge or never even charged with a criminal offence.
I will now turn to clause 15 of Bill C-55 concerning long term offenders, specifically the provision regarding aboriginal communities. Clause 15 allows that for long term offenders who express an interest in being supervised in an aboriginal community, the aboriginal community must first receive notice of the supervision and have the opportunity to propose a plan for the release and integration into the community.
In other words, aboriginal communities have the right to become involved in planning for the release of a high risk offender into their community and the right to become involved in the planning for that release. Other Canadians do not share this proposed right and consequently receive no such notice. We think they should. Why is the government doing the right thing for aboriginal communities and not for other Canadian communities?
The government should be uniting Canadians with a standard of behaviour. Canadian citizens everywhere deserve the same notice and planning provisions as those proposed for the aboriginal communities.
Besides all that, the minister of defence should resign.
Subtopic: The Criminal Code