Hon. Lawrence MacAulay (for the Minister of Justice, Lib.)
moved that Bill C-55, an act to amend the Criminal Code (high risk offenders), the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, the Criminal Records Act, the Prisons and Reformatories Act and the Department of the Solicitor General Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Gordon Kirkby (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Lib.)
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to a bill that will make an important contribution to the safety of our communities. The high risk offender bill responds to a problem that Canadians have told us is their priority concern in the criminal justice area, namely the threat they perceive from sex offenders and other violent offenders.
In effect, Bill C-55 lays out a new sentencing regime for the worst categories of offenders. It changes and fortifies several parts of the Criminal Code and I invite members to give close attention to these amendments, particularly to the amendments that have potential to help the police, the prosecutors, judges and correctional authorities to do their jobs better.
These amendments improve the dangerous offender procedure of part XXIV of the Criminal Code, create a new long term offender sentencing category targeted at sex offenders, and establish a new form of judicial restraint order that will place controls on persons who clearly pose a threat to the security of our communities.
The Minister of Justice has held the portfolio for three years. He recognizes the passions and fears that the issue of crime inspires in many Canadians. The government has acknowledged the challenge of violent crime in the first speech from the throne. Since then the Solicitor General of Canada and the Minister of Justice have worked steadily to develop effective anti-crime legislation.
The government has sought the views of all Canadians in this process. The Minister of Justice has tried to meet as many Canadians as possible to obtain their insights into community safety and how to ensure it. He has frequently met with victims groups, police groups and crime prevention committees.
He has discovered that Canadians want the justice system to be more focused as far as violent crime is concerned. They want to see tough measures applied to high risk offenders but the more he consults, the more he hears that people do not want simplistic solutions.
Whether talking about crime prevention, policing, sentencing or parole, Canadians expect governments to devise well crafted well focused laws that really home in on the categories or sub-categories of offenders who commit serious crimes of personal violence.
Let me turn to the proposal for a long term offender sentencing category because it is central to the package and exemplifies what I believe is a well tailored and well focused strategy.
The new long term offender procedure would be created in the Criminal Code to help us in the sentencing of repeat sex offenders. I am referring to pedophiles, the various levels of sexual assault, sexual touching, sexual exploitation, exposure and sexual interference. These are offences which may involved children or adults as victims. These are offenders who, unfortunately, frequently show a long pattern of offending.
Under the new procedure, when the prosecution identifies such repeat offending, it can make an application for a special hearing into the risks posed by the persons found guilty under these sections of the Criminal Code. Where the court finds that there is a pattern of repetitive behaviour showing a likelihood of the offender causing death or injury to other persons or inflicting severe psychological damage, it can declare him or her to be a long term offender.
The judge will then impose a penitentiary sentence-in effect the normal sentence for the sex crime in question-but also make an order which can add up to 10 years of intensive community supervision. This long term supervision period begins only when the long term offender has finished the full prison sentence, including parole and any other period of conditional release.
Thus, for example, someone convicted of sexual assault might receive a sentence of eight years imprisonment with an added ten years of supervision. Eight years from now, after completing the full sentence of imprisonment and any parole time, the offender would begin 10 years of supervision. The National Parole Board would set whatever conditions were necessary. These could involve very intensive rules for the offender, controlling his conduct, his use of alcohol, his access to places where children congregate and so forth. A requirement to report to a Correctional Service of Canada supervisor as often as is deemed necessary could also be made a condition.
We are giving teeth to this supervision system. We propose a new Criminal Code offence of breach of an order of long term supervision. This is an indictable offence carrying a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment. A charge can be laid whenever a long term offender without reasonable excuse fails or refuses to comply with the order. These new sentencing tools will extend the authority of the criminal justice system to monitor and control sex offenders.
I want to take a moment to clarify the relationship between the long term offender category and the dangerous offender procedure. The question will be raised, should not the dangerous offender procedure, which carries an indeterminate sentence, be applied to all these sex offenders? The short answer is that it often will be. Most of the sex offences in the long term offender category, such as sexual assault, can equally support a dangerous offender application.
The solicitor general, a colleague of the Minister of Justice, released a research study in May which showed that 92 per cent of the successful dangerous offender applications involved sex offences. Dangerous offender and long term offender sentencing are complementary but they are not necessarily redundant.
Over the past 20 years dangerous offender rulings averaged 13 to 15 offenders annually. However, several hundred sex offenders are admitted to federal penitentiaries each year. Some may be potential dangerous offender candidates but many more, though certainly not all, could be candidates for the long term offender application. The difference is, in the assessment of risk in a long term offender case, the court must find not only that there is a substantial risk of reoffending but at the same time there is a reasonable possibility of eventual control of that risk through community supervision.
As I have described, the judge will then structure the sentence with the appropriate combination of penitentiary time and the community supervision order. In effect, prosecutors will have flexibility in seeking a dangerous offender finding or a long term offender finding.
When a conviction for a serious sex offence occurs the crown can ask the court to remand the offender for a detailed assessment of the nature and degree of risk posed by that individual. The crown can then decide which way to go, dangerous offender application or a long term offender application.
Actually Bill C-55 provides that if the court does not find that the criteria for a dangerous offender finding are satisfied it can still make a long term offender finding and sentence the offender accordingly.
Some will ask why we are not simply increasing the prison periods for all sex offenders. We are calling this the high risk offender bill, not the throw away the key bill. The Criminal Code already provides for lengthy sentences for sex offences. For example, sexual assault causing bodily harm carries a maximum of 14 years.
Our goal is not simply to lock up every sex offender indefinitely although, as noted, an indeterminate dangerous offender sentence remains an option in some cases. Our goal is to reduce the risk posed by this special group of offenders. The reality is most offenders will eventually return to the community having served their time. Community safety is not assured by the sudden release of offenders from a prison environment.
We need to control sex offenders through a combination of jail time and managed reintegration. A long term supervision order
can result in an effective doubling of the period that a sex offender remains under the control of the state, the control of Correctional Service Canada.
I share the concern of Canadians about recidivism by pedophiles and other sex offenders. Now we will be able to structure the sentence, closely monitor the conduct of the long term offender and provide the support the offender needs to successfully readapt to the community.
I am sure figures will be thrown at me showing that pedophiles remain an ongoing risk, that the risk of reoffending is still there even after several years. Do not forget that long term offender procedure includes enforceable conditions. Any breach of the conditions of a long term supervision order can result in the offender's being immediately brought back into custody and if serious enough lead to the prosecution for a newly created offence of breach of an order.
On the other hand, it seems that full compliance over a 10 year period with the potentially stringent conditions of a long term supervision order will be a good indication of a reduced risk of reoffending.
I have mentioned the dangerous offender procedure several times. We are introducing amendments to improve part XXIV of the Criminal Code without changing the essential elements of the system which the Supreme Court of Canada has described as a valid form of sentencing. It will no longer be possible for the court to hand down a fixed sentence to a dangerous offender. An indeterminate sentence will be the only option. Of the 176 dangerous offenders to date only 7 have received a determinate or fixed sentence.
Nevertheless, we believe that it makes little sense for the courts and the prosecution to go through the extensive dangerous offender procedure only to obtain a fixed sentence that might be close to what the offender would have received in ordinary circumstances. The core of the dangerous offender finding is that the individuals represent an ongoing risk, the limits of which cannot easily be predicted.
An indeterminate sentence is the appropriate one. Currently a dangerous offender gets an initial parole review at the third year point; that is, three years after being taken into custody. We propose to move the initial parole review date from the third year to the seventh year. Subsequent parole reviews would occur every two years thereafter.
We feel this change is justified by the fact that dangerous offenders present a very high level of risk to the public and that risk is not likely to soon abate. In fact, no dangerous offender has obtained parole on the first review.
The Minister of Justice discussed the dangerous offender procedure on several occasions with the ministers of justice and attorneys general of the provinces. After all, it is the provinces that are to be making the prosecutorial decisions in these cases. The minister's provincial colleagues unanimously agree that part XXIV is a useful mechanism and there are signs that dangerous offender applications are being used more frequently across the country.
The dangerous offender procedure requires the prosecution to meet a high standard of proof, proof of a pattern of offending, of brutality and of risk. This is as it should be given that the sentence provided is the most serious of any in the Criminal Code with the exception of life sentences for murder.
The prosecution should be able to gather the necessary evidence at the time of trial and conviction. There may be rare exceptions, however, where the crown believes that additional information not available at the time of trial may exist to support a dangerous offender application.
Bill C-55 will allow the prosecution to bring an application within six months of conviction in respect of convictions for serious personal injury offences.
I would emphasize that this is a very limited window of opportunity for the crown. The prosecution must give notice at the time of conviction of its intention to apply and must actually do so within six months. Furthermore it must show that relevant evidence that was not reasonably available at the time of the imposition of the sentence became available in the interim.
There is a third pillar to this legislation, one that I believe will strengthen the community policing capacity of our police forces across this nation. This bill proposes a new form of judicial restraint order in the Criminal Code to become section 810.2. This comes within the part of the code entitled "Sureties to Keep the Peace".
The Canadian legal system has always provided for various forms of restraining orders, both common law and within the Criminal Code. In 1993 this House adopted a special form of judicial restraint order contained in section 810.1. It allows the court to impose an order where there are reasonable grounds to fear that a person will commit a sex offence against someone under the age of 14 years. The order can last up to a year. Conditions can be attached to the order and a breach of conditions constitutes a distinct offence.
The potential victim need not be named, nor does the section explicitly require that the person be a convicted child sex offender. Police forces and provincial prosecutors report the law is proving useful. It is frequently used in Ontario and Manitoba, and successively used.
The proposed new judicial restraint order, let us call it a section 810.2 order, has been modelled on the existing section 810.1 which I have just described.
The order would apply for up to 12 months and would include conditions. It would be used where there are reasonable grounds to fear the commission of a serious personal injury offence. The focus therefore is on serious sex offences and other serious crimes of violence. The persons potentially at risk need not be under the age of 14, although they could be.
Section 810.2 allows the judge to set conditions with the overall objective of securing the good conduct of the defendant. In addition, Bill C-55 will specify that the judge can order the person to report to a provincial correctional authority, an appropriate police authority or to comply with a program of electronic monitoring provided that such a program is available in the place where the person resides.
I do not claim that this provision will be a panacea to the problem of individuals who pose a risk to neighbourhood safety. Rather, it is a crime prevention measure that will assist police and prosecutors to do their difficult jobs in a better fashion.
We are building on the initial promise of the existing section 810.1 provision by establishing a limited form of judicial restraint where it is clearly established that a risk of committing a serious personal injury offence is present.
I will not feel slighted if anyone characterizes this bill as a get tough package. It is that, but it is not a simplistic package. It does not climb on to the American bandwagon of simply adding prison time to every felony or, in our case, every indictable offence.
Some in this country regard the American experience as the model for us, following the American justice system down the road of three strikes and you are out or two strikes and you are out, whatever the flavour of the day happens to be, more imprisonments and massive prison construction.
I also watched the American experiment with grim fascination. There are now 1.6 million United States citizens in jail. The state of Texas now incarcerates more of its citizens than were imprisoned in the entire country several years ago.
California, with its constitutionally entrenched three strikes law, is spending more on new prisons than it is on higher education. Something is definitely wrong with that model. We are not interested in repeating that experience in this country.
I am not interested in amending the Criminal Code for the benefit of a new prison industry. There are some useful American approaches to criminal justice policy, but the facts show that too often prison is seen as the solution to every crime problem resulting in too many non-violent and low risk offenders being caught in the net.
It is too simplistic, too expensive and it simply does not work. The alternative is the one that this government has proposed, a targeted approach where we use imprisonment for serious offenders and use community based controls for others.
I want to briefly mention the federal-provincial co-operation that has gone into the development of this legislation. Unlike many other countries, our Constitution confers legislative authority over criminal law to the federal Parliament.
This division of power ensures a consistent criminal law nationwide. It also dictates that the federal government be sensitive to the role of the provinces which, for the most part, administer the law.
The Minister of Justice has received extensive help from the provincial attorneys and solicitors general in this instance. Most recently, in May 1996, they expressed strong support for the major components of this bill despite the recent comments by the Ontario solicitor general about our resolve in the area of high risk policy.
The federal Solicitor General and the Minister of Justice have introduced a series of measures in the House over the past two years that keep the focus where it belongs: on the prediction and the management of risk. The punishment must match the crime. The overall sentence must match the risk.
I am very pleased that chapter 22, the sentencing legislation, is now in force. It sets out clearly the fundamental premises of sentencing in criminal cases. The bill being considered today is totally consistent with these principles in its strategic use of imprisonment, supervision and crime prevention, and its focus on risk management.
Our other legislation is equally consistent and focused. Bill C-45 for example tightens the rules and criteria for lifers who want to be considered for early parole. Bill C-104, which was proclaimed in July, improves the ability of police to investigate serious crime by allowing them to obtain DNA evidence. Bill C-17, now in committee, contains over 140 separate amendments to the Criminal Code that modernize the administration of justice and the criminal law.
To bring this full circle, let me reiterate that this bill, by improving sentencing options in regard to sex offenders and other high risk offenders, is consistent with our approach to the most serious kinds of crimes. It is consistent with a series of bills we have introduced in the area of sex offences, for example: Bill C-72, now in force, dealing with self-induced intoxication; Bill C-46,
addressing the question of evidence in sex offence cases; and Bill C-27, concerning child prostitution, child sex tourism and stalking.
Certainly there is more to be done, but I would urge the members to support this bill as an important step. I would urge members to support this bill as one of the many bills that have been introduced by this government to toughen up and improve the criminal law of this country.
This government continues to pursue its agenda, strategic, well targeted, tough minded, to ensure that all citizens of Canada can live secure in safe homes on safe streets.
Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the hon. member for Prince Albert-Churchill River's speech on Bill C-55. Let me say right off the bat that both his speech and Bill C-55 contain some things I like, other things I do not like at all, and yet other things that are in a grey area.
When the hon. member for Prince Albert-Churchill River talks about improving the law, about protecting society, in some regards I can only agree with his statements of principle. For example, the hon. government member who tabled this bill talks about convicted criminals, especially sexual offenders. The cases that are being raised the most often and that we find particularly troubling are obviously those associated with pedophilia and with sexual assaults against people.
Let us look more closely at the pedophilia cases. Incarceration does not cure pedophilia. Pedophiles are sexually attracted to children. Keeping a pedophile behind bars for five, six or seven years will not cure him. Society will be protected, but once the sentence has been served and the person released, he remains a high-risk offender. Unless we resort to extreme measures like chemical or surgical castration, there is no way to guarantee that he will not reoffend.
Under the new provisions in Bill C-55, after serving their sentences, convicted sexual offenders may be kept under supervision for up to 10 years. So by keeping them under supervision after their release, we can exert a measure of control. I think that is reasonable in a free and democratic society, where a happy medium must be found between individual rights and the right of the community to protection.
Incidents like those witnessed recently in Sherbrooke for instance are the kind of thing we must strive to prevent as much as possible by increasing the level of awareness of the decision makers, be it only regarding parole. If the provisions of the Parole Act had been enforced in Canada, we would not have cases like the one in Sherbrooke and the one involving young Isabelle Bolduc, because the offenders in these cases would not have been released when they were.
Bill C-55 also aims to make it easier for the crown to have a convicted offender found to be a dangerous offender or a long-term offender. This new terminology will have to be incorporated into our criminal law.
Basically, the crown will no longer be required by law to select one or the other immediately after the verdict is rendered and before sentencing. The crown will now have six months to make application for a court hearing to have a person who has been found guilty of a crime declared a dangerous offender or a long-term offender.
This six-month period sounds like a good thing to me in that it will give crown attorneys, who, in most judicial districts in Canada, are already overburdened, the time to assess the case properly, seeking the advice of social workers, police and the community involved on whether or not this person should be declared a dangerous offender or a long-term offender. This will make for a more considered decision.
There will be less chance of the crown's overlooking obvious cases or missing cases on which it should have acted because, at present, if the crown does not make its case immediately after conviction, which means before sentencing, it loses any right to do so. It sounds reasonable to me. I agree that it is an improvement over the existing legislation to give the crown another six months and to ease the crown's burden of proving, with the help of two psychiatrists, that an offender has to be declared a dangerous offender and now a long-term offender, according to the new terminology used in section 752.1 of the Code.
The aim of this bill is to have an individual considered to be a dangerous offender or a long-term offender given an indeterminate sentence. At present, in Canada, there are orders-not many admittedly-that set specific dates. In the future, the rule will be the same for everyone: indeterminate sentence. I think this shift will also foster a more uniform application of the law in Canada.
Finally, one last measure regarding dangerous offenders and long-term offenders. A person who has been declared a dangerous offender or a long-term offender will now have to wait not three years, but seven years to apply for parole to the National Parole Board. We can agree, in essence, with measures like these ones, given the rise in crime in society.
It is true that, in Canada, the trend generally is to say that crime is on the decrease. However, there is a rise in certain types of crimes we have not had to deal with in the past.
The proposed amendments are the new tools to deal with these different forms of crime. Traditionally, murders, theft or armed robberies accounted for some 80 per cent of the crimes brought before the courts.
In order to deal with specific crimes, we must give ourselves specific tools and modernize criminal law.
My comments apply to the bill generally. I also said at the beginning that I am not so happy about some provisions, while I truly dislike other ones, including section 810.2.
Should the bill be passed as it now stands, clause 810.2 and the ones that follow it would allow a judge, who has acquitted an individual, to impose measures to have the individual monitored. This contradicts traditional British criminal law, which is premised on the presumption of innocence and on the weight of an acquittal. How can we sentence someone who was acquitted? If one is guilty of a crime, he must pay for it by going to jail or, if the offence is minor, by paying a fine. However, a person who is acquitted can go home, unless he is being detained for another offence committed under other circumstances. A verdict of acquittal means the person is free to go. There is no grey area between the two possibilities.
The bill introduces the notion whereby someone can be acquitted but still be under probation. It basically says: "You are acquitted, but something about you makes me feel you are a risk to society. Therefore, for a period of some ten years, you will have to regularly report to police authorities, and you will have to stay home between 11 p.m. and 8 a.m.".
We cannot function with such rules in a society where the rule of law prevails. This is a debate that took place almost 320 years ago. In 1679, when the law of habeas corpus was passed under King Charles II, the issue was precisely that some people, whose face or behaviour the prince did not like, were detained in the Tower of London, by virtue of an order bearing the sovereign's seal. Parliament reacted by passing the law of habeas corpus , which gave people, and which still gives them, because it is enshrined in the Canadian Constitution, the right to petition a judge on any scrap of paper available-a piece of toilet paper was once used-to have the jailer bring them before the judge and justify the legality of their detention. That was what habeas corpus meant in 1679, and that is what it still means today. It is not often used in our country, precisely because it is there, a sword of Damocles preventing the violation of citizens' basic rights.
When a writ of habeas corpus is issued, prison authorities must explain why someone is being detained. One justification may be to show that there was a warrant of committal following sentencing by a judge at the conclusion of a duly held trial. But if there was an acquittal, the accused, who is no longer the accused, however, because he was acquitted and told: ``I acquit you'' is also told that now, for ten, three or five years, he will be the object of certain special measures.
In the provinces where it is possible, he could even be electronically monitored. He is told: "You will be required to wear a small bracelet and stay near a telephone line, and when the signal is interrupted or cut off, will come to your home to see if you are there", well, the accused, it would seem to me, is justified, under the Canadian Charter, under the rules of habeas corpus , in saying: ``I require you to justify the legality of my detention''.
This is a 300 year step back in the history of criminal law. Under no circumstances can we support provisions creating sentences for individuals who have been acquitted.
However, we can quite happily support more stringent, more appropriate measures for those found guilty who are at risk of reoffending. That is one thing, and Bill C-55 deals with that problem, but it is another thing to sentence, in a roundabout way, those who have already been acquitted. This is not a concept that belongs in our criminal law.
I taught criminal law for twenty some years and at the end of each session in various groups I invariably put the following question, or something along these lines: "What should be the sentence for someone who has just been acquitted for the third time of murder in the first degree?" I underlined the words "murder in the first degree". Invariably, two thirds of the class would tell me: life imprisonment. In the next class, I always got a kick out of telling them that we were lucky to live in a country where there were no sentences for people who had been acquitted.
If I go back to teaching law, I will have to revise my thinking. I will have to tell my students: now, because of Bill C-55, a person acquitted in our country can be sentenced. There is something fundamentally wrong with this.
Canadians know the rules of criminal law. We are all familiar with the concept of presumption of innocence. We all know that the crown is bound to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. I think people are most familiar with this aspect of the law because it is so often applied by the average person. The jury rule, which essentially goes back to 1215 and the Magna Carta, is a concept that has forged our legal thinking, even that of the average citizen.
When we talk to constituents in our ridings, they are often more familiar with the rules of criminal law than civil law. These are not complicated rules. They are simple rules based on logic and common sense. In this case, the government is no longer using common sense, and when concepts get confused, citizens get confused as well.
I hope, and the hon. member for Prince Albert-Churchill River might discuss this with his minister, that the idea of giving a sentence to a person who has been found not guilty will be dropped when the bill is considered in committee.
It is not our intention to vote against the bill at the second reading stage. We want this bill to be studied in committee. However, we do not want a replay of what happened in the case of Bill C-45 last June, when the government wanted Parliament to pass all stages of the bill in a matter of days. There should be a thorough study of the bill.
And should the government ever decide to maintain the provisions in section 810.2-a government that is so fond of making references to the Supreme Court-I think that before issuing an order in council for the coming into force of this bill, the bill should be referred to the Supreme Court for an opinion on the constitutionality of section 810.2 and following, in the light of our Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and, more specifically, sections 11(d) and 11( h ) of the Charter.
I will read these two sections. We read the following:
Any person charged with an offence has the right: d ) to be presumed innocent until proven guilty according to law in a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal; h ) if finally acquitted of the offence, not to be tried for it again and, if finally found guilty and punished for the offence, not to be tried or punished for it again;
This principle is clear in the Charter. It is wrong to say that the law is contrary to the Charter. If it is, it is because the Charter recognizes certain fundamental values with which Canadians identify. These fundamental values have been evolved for centuries. The book is red, but when Mr. Trudeau had the Charter adopted in 1982, it did not drop out of the clear blue sky. It is a codification of what has been built up over the centuries in the United Kingdom, here and in other countries with a system based on British criminal law and where there were also comparable civil liberties. Before moving away from that, or running the risk of doing so, a detailed examination needs to be carried out.
I believe that the government is taking considerable risk, perhaps unawares. If it has not seen that risk, probably the questions we are raising today will prompt it to take a second look, or, to use the oft-repeated expression, to go back to the drawing board. No one will hold it against the government if it has to improve its own bill when it comes to the committee stage, after redoing its homework.
If the government is aware, and is doing this knowingly, one may well wonder what its purpose is. Does it really want to change the Criminal Code in order to improve the application and administration of justice, or does it want to make a political statement? Is it courting a certain segment of the electorate who would be delighted to see the innocent detained?
The other day I heard the hon. member for Crowfoot defending some positions similar to mine. In appearing before a parliamentary committee discussing a bill, he said that it is one thing to punish a person who has been found guilty, but it is quite another thing to take away the freedom or fundamental rights of a person who is presumed innocent, or worse yet who has been found innocent of the crime of which he was accused. This is a serious reservation.
If the same bill were to come back to us at third reading with no guarantee of the rights of those who have been acquitted, potentially anyone of us in this House, you, me, anyone, could be the target of section 810.2, where there is a return to guilt by association, guilt by suspicion, like there was under the Mussolini regime in the 1930s. Then anyone could be found guilty on legitimate suspicion.
In Canada, we operate on the principle that proof must be established beyond a reasonable doubt. Other jurisdictions in other countries say that there must be sufficiently convincing proof. Italy in the 30's established the criterion of legitimate suspicion. Why? Among other things, in order to fight organized crime. This did not work, because it constantly lowered the degree of evidence a judge needed to find someone guilty.
What is legitimate suspicion? This can expand to crimes that may be committed, thought crimes, any kind of crime. It is a criterion which does not go into sufficient depth. With section 810.2, the government is going back to the Mussolini laws of 1930, which allowed people to be found guilty based on legitimate suspicion.
On the one hand, using the criterion of proof beyond reasonable doubt, someone is acquitted. On the other hand, using the criterion of legitimate suspicion, someone is acquitted, but subject to certain measures, to supervision for a given number of years. There is something wrong with this.
I believe that, the further this bill moves along in the House and in committee, the more it will be realized that these clauses are privative and need to be taken out of the bill. On these grounds, the official opposition will support second reading of this bill, but will take steps to see that section 810.2 and all those clauses which, to all intents and purposes, are intended to sentence an acquitted person, are deleted.
Mr. Speaker, I find this bill quite substantial in content. It takes a considerable amount of time to grasp everything that is recorded here and what impact it
will have on Canadians, on criminal justice and certainly policing and the courts.
I had an opportunity to go through a good portion of the bill in detail. I tried to cross reference it with the Criminal Code. It was not an easy task because the bill touches on so many areas, not only of the Criminal Code but of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and other statutes.
In my preamble relating to criminal justice matters I will relate some of the concerns that Canadians, including those in my caucus, have expressed to me, and then I will get into the bill.
Let me reflect on what the parliamentary secretary to the justice minister has stated. He has trumpeted this legislation by the justice minister as evidence of the government's commitment to get tough on criminals. He even said that he would not apologize for that statement if anyone accused him or his government of getting tough. But I will question it.
Although the parliamentary secretary is prone to that kind of rhetoric, he really has not looked closely at his statements nor at the bill. If he looked at the bill, he would not say such nonsensical things. It is not a tough bill, as this debate will clearly show. Reformers will certainly examine this claim in the debate that follows. I trust the parliamentary secretary and the justice minister will listen intently.
In the end, Canadians will judge whether this bill properly addresses their well founded concern over rising violent crime, the unchecked activities of sexual predators and the proliferation of pedophiles within our communities.
Before my colleagues and I address the technical aspects of the bill, let me spell out what Canadians are calling for in terms of protecting their communities, their families and their sense of personal security.
Canadians deserve to feel that they and their families are safe in their homes, at work, at school, on the street and in their communities. They want to live in a country where their children can play in parks, go to school and grow up without fear. They want a justice system that does more to protect law-abiding citizens than it does for criminals. Canadians want a country where they can look to the future instead of over their shoulders.
How can this be done? I know the justice minister will say that Bill C-55 is the solution. He will consider this bill to be his trump card going into the next election. However, Reformers will let Canadians judge how convincing are the arguments of the justice minister and the parliamentary secretary.
Canadians tell Reformers at town hall forums, community meetings, victims' memorials and rallies, coffee shops, truck stops and outside bank machines that the justice system has failed them. I do not know where the parliamentary secretary to the justice minister has been but obviously he has not been talking to people in front of a bank machine to listen to what the average citizen has to say.
Reformers never feel awkward about looking Canadians in the eye. In fact, we look them straight in the eye and we listen to what they have to say. They tell us to enact a victims' bill of rights that puts the rights of law-abiding citizens ahead of criminals' rights. That is probably the most contentious issue that exists today when it comes to the penal system. Canadians want to see some punishment in it and there is none. Of course the government side is not listening to that at all.
Canadians say the justice system should be reformed to provide safer communities, safer streets and safer homes. They say, hold a binding national referendum on the return of the death penalty for first degree murderers. Canadians believe they should have the final determination, not ivory tower, soft on crime Liberal lawyers, in choosing a fair and just punishment for monsters such as Clifford Olson and Paul Bernardo.
Well over 76 per cent of Canadians seek to have the death penalty reinstated. However the Minister of Justice, the parliamentary secretary to the minister, the Solicitor General, and those sitting in that front row will not consider reinstating the death penalty or even asking Canadians what they would like the government to do.
They say that Canadians want the Liberals' $400 million gun registry replaced with meaningful laws to fight the criminal use of firearms. Just to touch on that one point, the amount of money that is being spent on this registration system is indecent and insane. And it is not protecting Canadians one iota.
Canadians want meaningful reform to the parole system and at the very minimum they want parole abolished for first degree murderers. Clearly the debate in the House over Bill C-45 brought that message home loud and clear. I know for a fact that Canadians have been pointedly telling those in that front row over there on the other side that section 745 should be stricken from the record, scrapped and repealed.
Canadians also want the Young Offenders Act repealed, or at least replaced with measures that would hold young criminals accountable for their actions. This is a very common sense request on the part of Canadians which has now become a demand that the government do that, but again deaf ears on that side.
These are the things Canadians are saying. This will be the criteria by which Canadians judge the justice minister's claim that Bill C-55 will get tough on violent criminals or high risk offenders.
Canadians will also judge the strengths and weaknesses of this legislation in terms of how it proposes to change the justice system with a view to getting tough on crime. Those are the parliamentary secretary's specific words. The parliamentary secretary says they are getting tough on crime. Let us look closely at the bill and see how tough, if at all.
Canadians tell Reformers that they want to see very specific and very broad changes to the criminal justice system. They tell us that they want some of the following measures introduced into the justice legislation. The guiding question should be: How far does Bill C-55 go toward changing the criminal justice system? Will Bill C-55 for example implement truth in sentencing, meaning that the sentence given will be the sentence served by all violent offenders?
I listened to the parliamentary secretary talk about sexual assault. Obviously the parliamentary secretary has not been in a courtroom for some time or he would realize that judges are handing down two and three-year sentences to rapists, not the 14 years as outlined in the Criminal Code as the maximum sentence. That is reality.
Will Bill C-55 for example implement two strikes laws, meaning that violent offenders who commit on two separate occasions an offence causing serious personal injury will be sentenced to an automatic indeterminate life sentence? Will the bill do that? No.
Will parole be limited, earned and tightly monitored under the proposals put forward in Bill C-55? Can a dangerous offender application be made at any time during a criminal's sentence, not just at the beginning of court proceedings? Will section 745 of the Criminal Code be repealed, scrapped and abolished, not simply tinkered with, to ensure that no murderer receives early parole?
Those will be the questions and criteria by which Canadians will judge this legislation. On behalf of Canadians, Reformers will certainly do their part to bring the government to task on these very important concerns, especially with respect to Bill C-55.
Let us examine the specifics of the bill. Essentially, Bill C-55 is made up of three components: a new and expanded dangerous offender provision; a new long term offender provision; and a new judicial restraint clause. Also of concern is clause 15 which grants special rights in respect of aboriginal convicted offenders.
Let us look at the dangerous offender provision. The new dangerous offender provision in Bill C-55 recognizes that the current process by which certain criminals are assigned dangerous offender status and are therefore required to serve an indefinite penitentiary sentence is not sufficiently strong enough to protect Canadian communities against violent criminals.
Reformers applaud the new provisions which expand the criteria for designating violent criminals as dangerous offenders. That is one positive aspect of the bill. However, the proposed changes for designating certain criminals as dangerous offenders do not go far enough.
Section 753(1), (2), (3) and (4) in Bill C-55 would allow the crown up to six months after conviction to bring about a dangerous offender application. At present the current rules afford the crown only a narrow and limited window at the time of conviction to bring about a dangerous offender application. Even under the proposed changes the 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 emerges to support the application.
The Reform Party will be proposing several amendments in committee to this part of the bill. In the past a dangerous offender application had to be made at the time of sentencing. This bill proposes a slight extension to that window.
There has been a problem with releasing high risk offenders into the community. They will reoffend. The authorities have stated this time and time again. There are no provisions in the bill which address this point. The fumbling way the justice minister has attempted to address this has been to impose a judicial restraint order after the fact. In other words, after the offender has served his time and he most likely is not under any parole supervision, the justice minister will go to the attorney general of the province to apply for a judicial restraint order. I will get into that point in more detail later.
I want to reflect on what Reformers will do as far as the proposed amendments are concerned.
We will propose that Bill C-55 allow for dangerous offender findings to be made at any time after sentencing. To be clear, 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 the offender's penitentiary sentence. One of our members submitted Bill C-254 which addresses the issue in detail, but unfortunately members on the other side of the House voted it down.
We also propose that Bill C-55 be amended for greater certainty to 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. Under the present system the crown may or may not apply for a dangerous offender finding after any number of offences. Reform's
proposal would require the courts to automatically effect a dangerous offender finding after the second offence.
Another thing disturbed me about the bill as I was going through it this morning. One can make the application for dangerous offender. That is a given; there is no question that this application can be made but that is not the end of it. The offender's agent, the lawyer, can then appeal that dangerous offender statement by the court. So it does not end there. It does not matter if the person is a dangerous offender or a long term offender, the lawyer can again bring that person before a court of appeal and the whole process starts all over again. I find that to be questionable.
What are we creating here, another bill of so-called Liberal justice? We are saying it should be automatic. Once that offender has committed a second offence, he is gone away for an indeterminate sentence and there is no opportunity to appeal.
My colleague points out that it might put a few lawyers out of work.
That in itself is not the most disturbing part. I looked even further and it reflects on the whole area of appeal. Another very interesting part of the bill deals with section 760 and reads as follows:
Where a court finds an offender to be a dangerous offender or a long term offender, the court shall order that a copy of all reports and testimony given by psychiatrists, psychologists, criminologists and other experts and any observations of the court with respect to the reasons for the finding, together with a transcript of the trial of the offender, be forwarded to the Correctional Service of Canada for information.
In other words, through this hearing and through the appeal, it seems that everyone in the justice industry will be involved and it will go on and on and on.
The parliamentary secretary talked about dealing with the legislation in a very open fashion when it is fraught with all kinds of hidden agendas and this is one of them. There will be endless hearings, endless court cases, endless record keeping, endless filing. It goes on and on to further perpetuate the problems our justice system is already in. It will be bogged down with more and more administration. It will be a bureaucratic nightmare.
There can be no question that pedophiles and sexual predators are dangerous offenders. Therefore, we propose that Bill C-55 take into account pedophiles and sexual predators, especially to expand the list of Criminal Code offences upon which a dangerous offender application may be brought about.
Specifically, we suggest that the following provisions be added to the dangerous offender designation: an offence under any of the following provisions of the Criminal Code, section 151, sexual interference; section 152, invitation to sexual touching; section 153, sexual exploitation; subsection 160(3), bestiality in the presence of or inciting a child to commit bestiality; 170, parent or guardian procuring sexual activity; 171, householder permitting sexual activity by child; section 172, corrupting children; section 212(2), living off the avails of prostitution by a child; section 212(4), obtaining sexual services of a child.
Under part (b), an offence under any of the following provisions of the Criminal Code involving a person under the age of 18: section 155, incest; 159, anal intercourse; 161(1) and (2), bestiality and compelling bestiality; section 271, sexual assault; section 272, sexual assault with a weapon, threats to a third party or causing bodily harm.
Under part (c), an offence involving a person under the age of 18 years under any of the following provisions of the Criminal Code, Chapter C-34 of the Revised Statutes of Canada, 1970 as they read immediately before January 4, 1983: 144, rape; section 145, attempt to commit rape; section 149, indecent assault on a female; section 156, indecent assault on a male.
Those sections reflect on our children, on our families and are not included in the present bill put forward by the justice minister. It is our suggestion that they will come forward in the form of a motion that may be included.
In point three, under the dangerous offender provision, Bill C-55 proposes to change section 761, which would review indeterminate sentences after seven years of custody rather than the previous three years.
This is an improvement on the previous review process but it is not tough enough. Therefore Reform proposes that section 761 be amended to allow review of indeterminate sentences after 15 years of custody rather than the existing provision of three years or the proposed seven years as advanced in Bill C-55.
Let us talk about the long term offender provision. Bill C-55 would amend the Criminal Code to proposed section 753.1(1) which would permit a court to find a person to be a new category of offender, a long term offender, if it can be determined among other criteria that there is a substantial risk that the offender will reoffend.
Under section 753.1(2), it is further required that the court shall be satisfied that there is a substantial risk if the offender is convicted of an offence under ones that have been previously related to sections 151, 152 and 153, subsection 173(2), sections 271, 272 and 273.
Reform believes that this list of Criminal Code provisions does not again go far enough for the stated purpose of assigning long term offender status to certain criminals.
Therefore for greater certainty and to include a broader range of offences committed by sexual predators and pedophiles, we propose that Bill C-55 be amended to include under proposed section 753.1(2), part (a), an offence under any of the following provisions of the Criminal Code: subsection 160(3), bestiality in the presence of or inciting a child to commit bestiality; section 170, parent or guardian procuring sexual activity; section 171, householder permitting sexual activity by a child; section 172, corrupting children; section 212(2), living off the avails of prostitution by a child; section 212(4), obtaining sexual services of a child.
Part (b), an offence under any of the following provisions of the Criminal Code involving a person under the age of 18 years: section 155, incest; section 159, anal intercourse; sections 160(1) and (2), bestiality and compelling bestiality.
Part (c), an offence involving a person under the age of 18 years under any of the following provisions of the Criminal Code, Chapter C-34, Revised Statutes of Canada, 1970 as they read immediately before January 4, 1983: section 144, rape; section 145, attempt to commit rape; section 149, indecent assault on a female; section 156, indecent assault on a male.
Those are the long term offender provisions that the Reform Party will certainly be entering in the form of amendment.
The final point is that of judicial restraint provisions. Bill C-55 proposes that section 810.2 be added to the Criminal Code, thereby permitting the attorney general to lay an information against anyone the attorney general believes will commit a serious personal injury offence. The individual then appears before a provincial court judge. If the judge is satisfied of the concern, an order to enter into recognizance with reasonable conditions for up to one year may be made. If the individual fails or refuses to enter into recognizance the judge may commit the defendant to a prison term not exceeding 12 months. That is substantial considering there are no charges, no convictions and really nothing more than a mere suspicion.
The judge may also prohibit the possession of firearms or ammunition and order the surrender of firearms acquisition certificates. Conditions can include reporting to the correction authority of a province, police authority or complying with a program of electronic monitoring if available.
This provision may be made even though the individuals may have been acquitted of any charge or never even charged with a criminal offence and is probably the most obnoxious part of this bill. It is a violation of civil liberties.
Reform believes that this clause constitutes a broad indiscriminate infringement of personal liberty which unduly violates the civil rights of an individual. The judicial remedies proposed in clause 9 of Bill C-55 should only be contemplated in matters where individuals have been convicted of offences under the Criminal Code of Canada and according to due process of law.
Therefore in our list of amendments that will be forthcoming at another time Reform proposes that clause 9 be struck in its totality from Bill C-55.
I am going to again briefly reflect on something else that comes to mind on this bill, another point that makes this legislation somewhat weaker than what the minister or the parliamentary secretary has just indicated.
I was going through the bill on section 753.3 where an accused has been placed on long term supervision and has been released into the community where monitoring has been required of the individual. It is noted that if that offender steps outside the province, the conditions that he is to meet no longer apply. I suggest there is going to be quite a movement of long term offenders about this country as they hop from one province to another. Just think of the implications that will have on our police departments trying to keep track of these wandering long term offenders.
If the long term offender commits another offence in that province it is not an automatic thing that he be suspended or placed back into incarceration. Rather, the police agency is required to do the following: "Where the accused is found, is arrested or is in custody, but if the place where the accused is found, is arrested or in is custody is outside the province in which the offence is alleged to have been committed, no proceedings in respect of that offence shall be instituted in that place without the consent of the attorney general of that province".
In other words what do we have? We have another glitch in the so-called tough legislation presented by the Minister of Justice. As we dig more and more into this bill it is becoming evident that it is far from getting tough on crime and it is not going to be this trump card that the minister thinks he will be walking into the election with.
I want to address one point before concluding, clause 15. Clause 15 deals with the provisions of the aboriginal community. It states that if the long term offender expresses the interest in being supervised in an aboriginal community, that community must receive notice of the supervision order and have the opportunity to propose a plan for release and integration into the community.
This point does not apply to any community in the country except an aboriginal community. This would again appear to be an example of the Liberal government's decision to treat some Canadians differently and bring about inequality. Aboriginal communities will have the right to notice of release of a high risk offender into their community and the right to become involved in planning for that release. Other Canadian communities do not receive this notice or this opportunity.
We will propose that clause 15 be amended so that "aboriginal community" reads "local community" so that it will be applicable to every community in this country, not just those as indicated by the Liberal justice minister's form of justice. That concludes my statement on Bill C-55.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague, the member for Brampton.
I have a number of thoughts to express to the House today, having consulted widely with my constituents of London-Middlesex on this bill and having received considerable input from them.
The hon. member who just spoke, my colleague opposite from the Reform Party, in his last point addressed the matter of application of this bill to the aboriginal community. Frankly, I get a little tired of hearing from the Reform Party that unless we treat each and every Canadian in the exactly the same way on exactly every piece of legislation, somehow we are taking a wrong approach or that we are being unfair. That simply perpetuates a myth that ought to be debunked right now.
I believe the member for Wild Rose, in interjecting just now, asked if I have a problem with equality. No, I do not have a problem with equality. However, not every single Canadian has to be treated in exactly the same way in every single aspect of our society in order to respect equality. As a matter of fact, I suggest that it is just the opposite. That kind of an attitude fails to recognize that there exists in this great land, from coast to coast to coast, a number of differences among Canadians.
I would ask my colleagues from the Reform Party to respect my opportunity to speak to the House without heckling me as I certainly did with them when they were speaking, although I disagreed with some of their points of view. I would certainly welcome their questions within the spirit of the rules.
It is obvious that our aboriginal peoples, respecting their traditions and what reality has shown us is more effective in dealing with offenders from the aboriginal community, that there is nothing wrong with taking a look at how this bill can be most effectively applied to aboriginal offenders. I would be disappointed in the Minister of Justice and in this bill if it did not hold out that possibility. That was the first point I want to make.
I am sure all of us, as members of Parliament, whatever part of the House we sit in, are well aware of the public perception that the rate of violent crimes has increased. I hear that from time to time from some of my constituents. However, I also hear from police officers, chiefs of police and other experts in the law enforcement field that fortunately the reality is that we do not have this massive increase in violent crime. We have some alarming trends that need to be dealt with and the purpose of Bill C-55 is to do just that. It is to address the reality of high risk offenders and to deal with those people effectively.
However, as members of Parliament, it is very important that we not subscribe to, let alone fuel, the perception that Canada is seeing a massive increase in violent crime because it is simply not the case. Anybody, whether he be an elected member of the House of Commons or a non-elected Canadian citizen, who fuels that myth and buys into it is doing a disservice to our society. Statistics and facts do not bear it out.
In my view, we need to ask where the dangerous trends are in our society vis-à-vis violent crime and address those. I believe Bill C-55 will do that very effectively.
First, as the speech from the throne made the commitment to the Canadian people, there has been widespread, public consultation on this bill. As one member of Parliament, I believe that the vast majority of Canadians agree with this bill and will support it becoming legislation.
Most experts, whether they be in law enforcement or other aspects of the criminal justice system, support this move by the government. I quote Mr. Scott Newark, executive officer of the Canadian Police Association, in speaking to this bill. He said: "The proposed high risk offenders legislation is the single most important improvement in Canadian public safety legislation in the last 20 years". That does not come from me as a Liberal member of Parliament. I am quoting the executive officer of the Canadian Police Association.
On matters of crime and justice, whether it was Bill C-68, the gun legislation issue was so emotional, or whether it is this bill, I do not purport to be an expert in law enforcement or in the justice system. I am not a lawyer as most Canadians are not lawyers.
I have learned through 16 years of elected office at the municipal and now federal level that we ought very carefully to seek out expert opinion before casting a vote on important legislation. It is very important to me to hear from the law enforcement community on issues such as gun control and Bill C-55. I put great stock in the comments of the executive officer of the Canadian Police Association.
There was widespread public input on the bill. There is very general and widespread support for Bill C-55. Several initiatives are set out in the bill, three of which are most important.
It creates a new long term offender designation that targets sex offenders and adds a period of long term supervision of up to 10 years following release from prison. That is a very valid concern of the people who have contacted me as a member of Parliament. Unfortunately, repeat violent offenders will pose a risk to public safety now and in the years to come. Some of them will pose a risk for the remainder of their lives. This legislation seeks to deal specifically with the threat to public safety.
The second important initiative is the strengthening of the dangerous offender provisions in the Criminal Code.
The third initiative is the new judicial restraint provision to permit controls, including electronic monitoring, to be applied to individuals who pose a high risk of committing a serious personal injury offence.
Public perception matches the reality of the statistics. Although there has not been a massive increase in violent crime in Canada, a number of individuals who are repeat violent offenders, pose a serious threat to public safety. The initiatives to which I have just referred very effectively deal with those people.
Concomitant with that, and very important in my mind, is the fact that the government also is taking an initiative to deal with low risk, non-violent offenders in other ways besides incarceration. The answer is not simply to build more jails. If that were true the safest society in the world would be the United States of America. It incarcerates an incredible percentage of its population. Statistics tell us that on a per capita basis the most dangerous society in the world in which to live-the society in which a person has the greatest odds of being assaulted, robbed, sexually assaulted or murdered-is the United States of America. The building of more jails in the U.S.A. has not resulted in a safer society. As a matter of fact, it has not dealt with the problem effectively at all.
I am very pleased to be a member of a government which is going to proceed, through this and other pieces of legislation, to deal more effectively with repeat violent offenders, including sexual offenders. However, at the same time a more enlightened, effective and efficient approach has to be taken in dealing with those offenders who are low risk, non-violent offenders. Both initiatives have to be seen as complementary.
The fact of the matter is that the public will see more effective measures to deal with high risk offenders. What do I mean exactly by a high risk offender? It is someone who has been convicted of a serious violent crime and who has been found to have a strong likelihood of reoffending, but who cannot be shown to meet the narrow definition of the dangerous offender which would result in indefinite incarceration.
The bill increases the options of the government in dealing with violent offenders. Suffice it to say that most of the constituents who have contacted me regard this bill as good legislation. They support it. That includes lay people and law enforcement officers in my community. They support it as a necessary improvement in dealing with serious violent offenders, and I am pleased to support the legislation.
Mr. Speaker, I will be brief so my colleague can get in his question as well.
I first want to comment on the equality statement that was made by the hon. member in his speech. This bill outlines that the law it is presenting is prepared to go into community a and prepare it for the release of a violent offender.
Why would the hon. member not be willing to see community b or community c receive the same kind of preparedness? Why only one community? It is a good idea so why not do it all the way through the system? Or are we talking about discrimination here? I do not understand where the member is coming from when he says that community a should get this but the others should not.
Second, has the member checked lately the number of unreported violent crimes? When experts talk about the number of violent crimes going down, it is the number of violent crimes being reported that is going down.
When we ask individuals who have had offences committed against them why they did not report them, they say that they have seen from the experiences of others who have gone through the same things that due to this soft Liberal approach on crime, the criminals and their rights are up front and the victims and their rights are not considered. The victim suffers more in some cases by reporting a crime than by not reporting it. The victim would rather not go through further suffering.
Is the member aware that that actually exists in this country, or is he living in some dreamland where he thinks that does not happen?
I have one comment to make on the bill as a whole. I hope when the justice minister goes home at night he does not travel the way he makes legislation, because if he does he would never get home. He would only get half way. I wish the Liberals would go all the way with some of their legislation and cover all the aspects and quit leaving big holes in these bills.
Of course, most of the legislation I have seen in the past has been built by lawyers for lawyers, and benefits lawyers. We are quite
concerned about the amount of court time that will be involved in implementing this entire package.
Mr. Speaker, I hardly know where to begin. My colleague from Wild Rose has raised several points.
Let me begin with the hon. member's assertion that this is legislation built by lawyers for lawyers. Perhaps he was not in the Chamber when I quoted the statement of Mr. Newark, executive officer the Canadian Police Association: "This proposed high risk offenders legislation is the single most important improvement in Canadian public safety legislation in the last 20 years". Mr. Newark is not a lawyer. He is a law enforcement officer and I take his comments very advisedly. It speaks very clearly to the fact that experts in the field besides lawyers view this legislation as a very important improvement.
As to my comments about the application of Bill C-55 to the aboriginal community, with all due respect to my colleague, I certainly did not say that one community should get this but others should not. He attributed those comments to me but I certainly did not say that.
I was reacting to his colleague who spoke just before me. He said that he saw no way this bill should be applied any differently to the aboriginal community than to the rest of Canadian society. I repeat, in my opinion that is a very short sighted view of Canadian society. The reality of the aboriginal community in Canada is that different techniques are more effective within that community. But because we can apply a bill in a different way with one community does not mean than we are favouring one community over another.
If that were the case, as a parent with three children, two boys and one girl, I would have to treat them exactly the same in every aspect of their lives. That is just not common sense in a family situation or in the justice system. That is the point I was trying to make.
With reference to how this may apply in other communities, I would only say to my hon. friend opposite that we live a dynamic society. The bill is an improvement. That is not to say it is perfect or that over time it cannot be improved. Perhaps there will be opportunities to apply it differently in various communities as the cases may warrant.
Mr. Lee Morrison (Swift Current-Maple Creek-Assiniboia, Ref.)
Mr. Speaker, I hope we can interpret the hon. member's statement as saying that there may be an amendment to this bill to make it equally applicable to all sectors of society.
My specific question deals with the hon. member's reference to statistics. I do not know how much he knows about the subject. I know a considerable amount because it is part of my background. It is very easy to pull a short section out of a statistical trend and say look, it is rising, it is dropping. If we are going to study a trend we have to study it over a reasonable period of time. I will grant that over the last couple of years there has been a very minor drop in the rate of violent crime in the country. But if we look at the statistics from about 1962 onward we can see many positive and negative blips. There is no such thing as a flat statistic trend.
Then the hard fact of the matter is that the rate of violent crime in Canada since 1962 has increased by almost 400 per cent. I suspect the hon. member knows that. I wish that when he uses statistics he would use them a little more broadly and generously.
Mr. Speaker, I am not given to long statistical arguments. I would invite my colleague to review my comments. I did not cite specific statistics. I did speak to the misperception which has been statistically proven as a misperception by experts in the field, both in the justice and law enforcement system.
Mr. Speaker, the member asked me a question and now he does not seem to want the answer.
The fact is that statistics prove that the misperception that we are on some rampant, runaway course of increase in violent crime in Canada today is simply not the case and it does none of us credit to fuel that misperception.
Mr. Speaker, justice policies often deal with issues which are the focus of great concern among Canadians. It is an area of public policy that comes under scrutiny daily in homes across the country as Canadians read their newspapers and watch the news. Unfortunately, it is also a source of a great deal of frustration.
The failure of successive governments to effectively combat high risk offenders has left Canadians feeling wary and cynical. Canadians are well aware of the types of crimes that occur and reoccur in their communities. They are well aware of the challenges we as parliamentarians face. That is why it is difficult for me as a member of Parliament and a democrat to act on the conventional wisdom prevalent among so-called experts. They claim the concern among Canadians over crime issues is overstated. They would have us spend our energies telling our constituents that they have no reason to worry about crime in this country.
I speak to my constituents every day and every day they tell me they are frustrated and afraid because of the level of violent crime in Canada. I am pleased to speak to this proposed legislation which addresses many of the concerns expressed by my constituents.
This legislation addresses very legitimate fears among Canadians over the ability of the justice system to deal with repeat sex offenders and specifically high risk offenders. It introduces tough
but effective controls to tip the balance in the fight against crime in our favour.
A case in point is the new long term offender designation. This designation was created to respond to the threat posed by sex offenders who do not quite qualify as dangerous offenders but still pose a risk to society. Bill C-55 proposes to add a period of supervision of up to 10 years following release from prison. This designation applies to a wide range of serious sexual offences from sexual touching to aggravated sexual assault.
The long term offender designation could also be applied to a person who committed another offence that had a sexual component, for example, somebody who committed a break and enter with a clear intention of sexually assaulting the occupants.
Canadians have consistently expressed frustration with the release from prison of sex offenders who are likely to reoffend. The dangerous offender designation responds to this concern in only the most extreme cases, leaving a significant gap in the high risk offender sentencing regime. The creation of the long term offender designation fills this gap.
A long term offender finding can be made only where the court is satisfied that there is a reasonable possibility of eventually controlling the risk imposed by the individual to the community. This allows a more structured kind of sentence for this type of offender, allowing the courts to pass tailor made effective sentences within a broad framework. This approach to justice policy is characteristic of the manner in which this government and this minister have responded to the challenges of this very important portfolio.
Efforts to streamline the sentencing process are evident in the proposed amendments to the dangerous offender provisions of the Criminal Code. Currently judges have the discretion to establish fixed sentences for individuals who are designated dangerous offenders. This is problematic.
The federal-provincial-territorial task force on high risk violent offenders correctly reported last year that it makes no sense to go through the dangerous offender procedure only to obtain a fixed sentence comparable to what might have been obtained without this lengthy exercise.
Under Bill C-55 when a dangerous offender application is successful the offender will automatically be sentenced to a period of indefinite incarceration. This measure is a recognition that dangerous offenders are just that and that the onus rests with them to demonstrate that they should be released from prison.
Other measures in the proposed legislation underline this message. The initial parole review of a dangerous offender would be moved to the seventh year from the third of incarceration and the number of psychiatrists required to testify has been reduced from two to one.
The introduction of a mechanism to allow a dangerous offender application up to six months after conviction rather than at the time of sentencing will allow the crown to act on information which may be brought to its attention following the conviction of an offender.
A third aspect of this legislation is the new judicial restraint provision which permits controls, including electronic monitoring of high risk offenders. This provision is much needed and has great potential for monitoring and controlling the movement of individuals who pose a risk of committing a serious personal injury offence. It should be noted that the exercise of this option does not depend on the individual's having committed a criminal offence. It is a preventive measure which will equip police with the means to monitor the conduct of offenders who pose a risk to society.
I might suggest that one feature of this legislation be singled out for intense study in committee, the long term offender designation. This is a very innovative and desirable aspect of the proposed legislation which deserves special attention. The committee should ensure that judges have a great deal of flexibility in the substance of its application. I have a specific use in mind.
Judges should have the ability to prescribe the application of new technologies for use in the monitoring of high risk offenders. Electronic monitoring has a multiplicity of uses in the fight against crime.
Judges should be vested with the ability to put this technology to use in monitoring high risk offenders. The committee should make every effort to ensure that the necessary legislation is in place to allow the application of new and emerging technologies to monitor long term offenders.
This legislation represents a well thought out, effective approach to dealing with justice issues which are paramount in the minds of Canadians. Some politicians have made a career of demanding monolithic, inflexible blanket legislation which imposes hefty minimum sentences. They will no doubt argue, as they always do, that this legislation does not go far enough in the war against crime. To them and their supporters, I offer the following observations.
It is true that we can draft any bill conceivable as long as it is within the jurisdiction of the federal government. However, if it will not work in the real world, the world that exists beyond these four walls, we are just wasting our time and betraying the trust of the people who put us here.
Let us not take the easy way out. Let us take the time to draft effective legislation that works. I would like to remind all hon. members that drafting justice policy is always a very difficult task.
We must balance the rights of the accused with the rights of the victims and the entitlement of society to an effective, fair justice system.
We must not fall into the trap of introducing laws that are inflexible and therefore incompatible with the task of achieving individual acts of justice within a broad public policy framework.
In the end, the true measure of an effective justice policy is the sum of the individual acts of the justice it achieves. We must strive to have effective laws. Bill C-55 achieves the balance required of good justice policy. I would encourage hon. members to give it their support.
Mr. Speaker, I listened to the member intently as she made her presentation on Bill C-55. In her opinion this legislation was tough, it was going to really answer the concerns of a lot of Canadians.
I have one major concern that Canadians have regarding sexual offenders, particularly pedophiles. The concern is that a pedophile, a sexual offender, is sentenced to a definite term. Because that person refused treatment, refused to follow through on the criteria set before them as far as rehabilitation in the Liberal sense, because the law is the law when the warrant expiry comes up, the offender is released into the community in spite of statements by psychiatrists, psychologists, those who in the know, prison officials, that clearly point to the fact that this individual is high risk, that this individual will reoffend.
I do not see any provision in this bill that deals with the concern that Canadians have here. The minister had placed that point forward that the minister will allow a window of six months for a dangerous offender application to be made, thus determining an indeterminate sentence for that offender.
I would like the member to comment on that provision because there is a lack of teeth, if you will, still in Bill C-55 dealing with the sexual predators of this world.
Mr. Speaker, members of the Reform Party view everything in black and white. There is no acknowledgement on their part that there are differences in sex offences. There has to be a provision for individual sentencing and determinations to occur.
The member for Wild Rose said earlier that there are so many crimes that are not being reported. At the same time, they are saying that violence is increasing. We dealt with this a year ago.