October 3, 1996

LIB

Paul Martin

Liberal

Hon. Paul Martin (Minister of Finance, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, let it be very clear that what we have done is ensure that low income and middle income seniors will be protected. It is true that at the upper end certain seniors may receive less. That has been done in order to make the program sustainable and to make sure that low income seniors are taken care of.

However, I think a far more significant thing has been said here today in this House. A member of the third party has finally admitted that which all Canadians know: whether it is health policy, pension policy, or another way in which they approach society, theirs is a party of extremists. It is a party that refuses to take the middle course. It is a party that says extremism is a virtue.

Nowhere in this country will Canadians allow the forces of the far right to dominate.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   The Budget
Permalink
LIB

Murray Calder

Liberal

Mr. Murray Calder (Wellington-Grey-Dufferin-Simcoe, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, last year the minister of agriculture introduced the matching investment initiative program for agricultural research which is vital to the continued growth of this country's agri-food sector. After a year of operation does the program have the support and participation of industry? Are the funds being shared across Canada?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Agriculture
Permalink
LIB

Ralph Goodale

Liberal

Hon. Ralph E. Goodale (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, the matching investment initiative is a very creative way in which my department works with the private sector in increasing the total pool of funds available for agri-food R and D in this country.

In the 1995-96 fiscal year, the first year of the program, it was virtually fully subscribed with a total of $24 million being invested in new agri-food research and development activities. So far in 1996-97, just in the first quarter of this fiscal year, we have invested a total of more than $30 million in matched funds under this initiative.

I am confident it will be fully subscribed doing good work from Newfoundland to British Columbia in the interests of agriculture and agri-food in Canada.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Agriculture
Permalink
NDP

Bill Blaikie

New Democratic Party

Mr. Bill Blaikie (Winnipeg Transcona, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of the Environment.

As far as I know this government has never repudiated the endorsement of the Brundtland commission that was given by a previous government.

A tremendous environmental effect will be felt as a result of the rail line abandonments which are now proceeding as a result of the government's policy with respect to transportation. We are going to see more trucks on the road. We are going to see a lot of other environmental effects.

Has the Minister of the Environment commissioned an environmental assessment of this major policy decision? Pursuant to the recommendations of the Brundtland commission and a Canadian endorsement thereof, has the Minister of the Environment commissioned that kind of assessment? Will he make a representation to his colleague the Minister of Transport to put a stop to these rail line abandonments until we have had that kind of environmental assessment?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   The Environment
Permalink
LIB

Sergio Marchi

Liberal

Hon. Sergio Marchi (Minister of the Environment, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, not yet.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   The Environment
Permalink
?

The Speaker

Colleagues, I would like to draw to your attention the presence in the gallery of the Hon. Chuck Furey, Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology for Newfoundland and Labrador.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Presence In Gallery
Permalink
?

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Presence In Gallery
Permalink
BQ

Gilles Duceppe

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Gilles Duceppe (Laurier-Sainte-Marie, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, I would like to know what the government has on the agenda for the coming week.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Business Of The House
Permalink
LIB

Alfonso Gagliano

Liberal

Hon. Alfonso Gagliano (Minister of Labour and Deputy Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, today and tomorrow we will deal with Bill C-55 and hopefully be done with it. If this is the case, we will resume the debate on Bill C-58, which concerns marine transportation, before moving on to Bill C-29.

On Monday we will be calling Bill C-26, the oceans bill. After that, we would like to do report stage and third reading of Bill C-54, the extraterritorial measures bill, and second reading of the Canada-Israel trade agreement bill that was introduced this morning.

We would then like to get Bill C-60, the food inspection bill into committee. In this regard, I would like to give notice to the House that it is the intention of the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food

to propose that Bill C-60 be referred to committee before second reading.

We would then turn to the Indian and northern affairs bills, Bill C-6 and Bill C-50, followed by Bill C-49 regarding administrative tribunals, and Bill C-47 respecting reproductive technologies.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Business Of The House
Permalink

The House resumed consideration of the motion 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.


?

The Speaker

I would like to know if the hon. member for Berthier-Montcalm intends to speak for 20 minutes, or if he will split his time with a colleague.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Criminal Code
Permalink
BQ

Michel Bellehumeur

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Michel Bellehumeur (Berthier-Montcalm, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, I intend to speak for 20 minutes.

There is no doubt that, with the introduction of Bill C-55, the Minister of Justice fulfils a popular wish. Western Canada, among other regions, must be pleased to see measures which, at first glance, are aimed at strengthening and tightening the supervision of high risk offenders and at keeping them in prison for a longer period.

However, we should not rejoice too quickly, since this is a bill motivated by purely partisan considerations and the fact that the next election is not far away.

In order to assess Bill C-55, one must see where it comes from, know what is currently being done in this area, and try to figure out the purpose of the proposed amendments. You will realize that Bill C-55 is hardly the result of lengthy research by the federal Minister of Justice and that it did not originate with him, since it is a topic that has been discussed for a long time and one on which even the Conservatives had done some very thorough research.

In fact, between 1988 and 1993, if I may digress to provide a better understanding of the purpose of these amendments, many studies were carried out and many people looked into this problem. There were provincial commissions of inquiry on the Stephenson case, the Pepino federal commission of inquiry, and reports by the Standing Committee on Justice on serious and bodily harm in February 1993 and on the Fulston and Crews case in April 1993.

All this combined with increasing public pressure led members of the Conservative caucus in 1988-93, faced with the Reform threat, to convince the Conservative government that it should propose a series of measures, which it did in the form of a white paper on the subject of dangerous offenders.

On May 25, 1993, the then solicitor general Doug Lewis tabled two draft bills, which covered five main components, most of which we see again today in Bill C-55. The first component is post-sentence detention, which could be ordered by a court and the purpose of which was to incarcerate indefinitely inmates who were found to be far too dangerous to be released on expiry of their sentence.

The second point indicated in this draft bill was long-term supervision for a maximum of 10 years, to be imposed by the courts at the time of sentencing. The third point was no parole for offenders serving a sentence for sexual assaults against children and automatically considered as having caused serious harm to the victim.

The fourth point was a change in the calculation of consecutive sentences for any new convictions during a parole period that would result in an extending the time of detention. The last point concerned various amendments to the Parole Act, including a disciplinary committee for members of the National Parole Board. This happened between 1988 and 1993, as you can see. After a series of studies, in 1993 a number of components were defined and the bill was introduced with these five components.

One would have thought that, if amendments in this area were so badly needed, the Minister of Justice would have amended the Criminal Code immediately after his election, since the research had been done. He did not. Since this was a popular issue with the public, the government preferred to wait a little longer to be able to use this issue closer to an election, and use it for campaign purposes.

According to the same study, in 1993, the then minister set up a federal-provincial-territorial task force to consider the problem of high risk violent offenders. In 1994, the new Liberal government tabled Bill C-45, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, but all this was still subject to the task force's soon to be released report on high risk offenders.

In January 1995, the federal-provincial-territorial task force on high risk violent offenders set up by the Conservatives and maintained by the Liberals released its report outlining a strategy for managing high risk offenders. The report contained a series of recommendations. Among other things, the task force recommended that dangerous offender provisions and civil incarceration procedures be used more often in the case of dangerous offenders suffering from mental illness who had almost completed their sentences.

It also proposed a procedure for criminals to be declared long-term offenders so they could be subject to supervision after their release. As you can see, the conclusions in this report bear a great deal of resemblance to the bill tabled by the then solicitor, Mr. Lewis, in 1993. The wheel had already been invented back in 1993.

In March 1996, a Reform member tried to revive former minister Lewis' bill during private members' business. In May 1996, a bill on the government business research project was tabled. This is another study in the area, this time on dangerous offenders.

This study, which focused on 64 dangerous offenders and 34 high-risk violent offenders, was designed to help solicitors determine which cases met the criteria for being declared dangerous offender. The report contained 11 recommendations.

There were many studies, as you can see. We have been looking into this problem for years. We had a series of tools at our disposal to act quickly in an emergency, if there was a need to amend the legislation, but these were not used until the very last minute.

What is the present situation? Is there a vacuum, a void in the legislation? We have seen all the publicity around Bill C-55, the reassurance the minister wanted to give the people of Quebec and Canada through this legislation, as if that was the problem and he had just found a magic solution.

But the subject of dangerous offenders is already covered by the existing legislation, part XXIV of the Criminal Code, sections 752 through 761. More and more individuals are being declared dangerous offenders. Statistics show that, in March 1995, 145 inmates had been declared dangerous offenders. Of these, 51 per cent were in a maximum security institution, 43 per cent in a medium security institution and the rest, or 4.5 per cent, in a psychiatric institution.

Dangerous criminals are not out on the street. We already have in the Criminal Code all that we need to jail those who need to be and to identify dangerous offenders as such. The problem rests with enforcement.

Does the justice minister's Bill C-55 do more? Is the Minister of Justice ensuring that the citizens of this country and their families will be afforded better protection? Perhaps we should take a look at what exactly this bill provides for.

The bill aims to make it easier for the courts to attach the "dangerous offender" label to violent offenders who are likely to offend again. In short, it covers four points, which are strangely similar to the four I mentioned earlier in reference to the bill former solicitor general Lewis had introduced. As I said, the Lewis bill was introduced in 1993. We waited three years for essentially the same results.

First, a special court hearing to have an accused designated a dangerous offender; there is nothing particular about this. Second, the Crown will have until six months after the conviction to make a dangerous offender application; this may be a new element that was not in the Lewis bill. It is easy to understand the reason for this six-month period, given that useful additional evidence is sometimes obtained later by the crown.

Third, the number of psychiatrists who have to testify at a hearing goes up from one to two. Fourth, the initial review of an application for parole by a dangerous offender increases from three to seven years.

The bill also creates a new category of offender, who will be subject to long-term supervision, for up to ten years. This new category will include offenders convicted of sexual assault, sexual interference, invitation to sexual touching, sexual exploitation, exposure, sexual assault with a weapon, aggravated sexual assault, or breaking and entering to sexually assault an occupant.

So far, we cannot really be opposed to this bill and its proposed changes.

Legal constraint could also be used in the case of an accused found not guilty by the court, but likely to commit a serious personal injury offence, as defined under section 752 of the Criminal Code.

Such constraint could include the use of electronic monitoring when such a program exists in a province. We are totally opposed to this approach, which goes against a number of judicial precedents and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It is a very serious violation of recognized legal principles, and I will get back to this later on in my speech.

Finally, in the case of the fourth point concerning low-risk offenders, there is no problem with an increased use of risk assessments by lawyers, judges and prosecutors so that sentences can be served in the community; there is no problem with more frequent use of day parole; nor is there a problem with correctional services using particular techniques on a more frequent basis to reduce repeat offences; and, finally, there is no problem with encouraging the use by natives of sentencing circles either.

So there you have Bill C-55 tabled by the minister in this House. It is well-intentioned but, in my humble opinion, the minister has merely given an official legal structure to what is current practice. What he is seeking to achieve through amendments is already being done by judges and the legal world as a whole through their discretionary powers.

In cases where judges realize that the person before them is a dangerous offender, they make sure that he cannot regain his freedom as easily as that. In fact, the courts are already handing

down indefinite sentences to offenders identified as dangerous. According to the statistics consulted, there are a good dozen a year.

In addition, even under the present legislation, none of the offenders identified as dangerous by the courts have been granted parole on their first application after three years, so it goes to seven years and the result is the same.

Why is the public being treated to all this song and dance? In the end, it is to persuade the public that Bill C-55 now before us will be the answer to almost all the problems with dangerous offenders. I would say to you that it is because it is a good move, election wise, because it goes over well, particularly out west.

Although the minister could have taken action much earlier, he was waiting for the right moment. He was waiting for a good date in the party's electoral calendar. By responding to the Reform Party's campaign, the minister is minimizing his party's losses.

Furthermore, I wonder to what extent Ottawa consulted. We were told that it carried out a series of consultations. I heard the minister himself say so. Section 810.2, subsections 1 to 10, allowing a judge to order preventive monitoring for an accused found not guilty, was never part of these consultations. I checked with my colleagues in Quebec, and we realize that this point was never submitted for discussion. They were very surprised to see this matter of electronic monitoring in the bill.

When you talk about electronic monitoring, you are also talking about additional costs. That, too, was not discussed. We do not know who will cover these costs, it was not discussed. Generally speaking, the criticism we have of this bill concerns the costs. In 1993, the cost was evaluated at $150 million by the former solicitor general of Canada, Mr. Lewis. Today, it could go as high as $250 million with electronic monitoring. We have no commitment from the minister as to who will pay.

There is no evidence that electronic bracelets are a reliable way to monitor dangerous offenders. Some reports from the United States indicate that a person who is fitted with a bracelet must remain within a certain radius of his telephone, because the waves are transmitted via the telephone. If the person is one floor down, he disappears from the screen, and we no longer know where he is.

Furthermore, an electronic bracelet will not keep a dangerous offender from repeating an offence or an assault. A bracelet will only help the police to find out where the individual was on a given date at a given time. As far as crime prevention is concerned, the system is worthless.

This is one point where we are very critical of the bill. That the government did not act sooner is another point, as I said earlier, and above all-and I think this is a good question-how does the Correctional Service of Canada intend to make this new system work, a system that will involve increased supervision, when today, that same correctional service is unable to prevent the sale of drugs in so-called maximum security prisons?

I had an opportunity to question the commissioner in committee, and he admitted quite frankly that drugs were a problem in our prisons, but they were incapable of monitoring all that. They are incapable of monitoring the circulation of drugs in prisons, and they want to supervise dangerous or so-called dangerous offenders using electronic bracelets. It does not make sense, considering the cost involved.

Another point is that Bill C-55 contains no preventive measures. It has an extremely serious weakness. Nor does the bill reflect the reality of 1996, because when we look at the statistics, we realize that the number of violent crimes has decreased by 13 per cent since 1991. We also realize, on the basis of the same statistics, that cases of sexual assault have dropped 21 per cent since 1994.

So things are not all that bad. I agree that the ideal situation is paradise. I agree that we see full page headlines in the newspapers, but if I told you that newspaper headlines are inversely proportionate to reality, what would you say? You would say I was right. Indeed. But big headlines sell newspapers. And the Reform Party takes advantage of those headlines. Every day we see Reform Party members using the newspaper headlines to try and make political capital. But reality is different.

We must keep working on prevention as they are doing in Quebec and in more and more Canadian provinces as well. But Bill C-55 is a band-aid solution being used to cope with a problem that is far more serious than that.

There is also another point, another important criticism, which is that the bill does not contain any clauses related to extending prison terms or creating a monitoring system for an inmate who turned out to be far more dangerous when his release was imminent than when he was sentenced. It is not possible to know that someone sentenced for 10 or 15 years will not be more dangerous when he comes out than when he went in. We have absolutely nothing about this in Bill C-55.

Finally, what I feel is the major point is the problem relating to an acknowledged principle, the presumption of innocence, since section 810.2 would allow a judge, as I have just said, to bring down a not guilty verdict while imposing supervision, which casts doubt on the validity of his verdict.

I believe very sincerely that, when a society starts to suspend such basic rights as the presumption of innocence on a case-by-case basis, it is treading close to the line of intolerance and is at risk of falling over that line into unjustified excesses.

Canadian society and Quebec society merely mirror the people who constitute them. Society, therefore, bears a share of the responsibility, and this bill I have before me, Bill C-55, does not reflect this sharing of responsibility.

It is imperative, and absolutely necessary, for the government and Parliament as a whole, to ensure the protection of our children, the ensure the protection of our families, as well, of course, as to ensure the protection of society.

As a party and as responsible individuals we intend to fight for these important principles. However, I would have liked to see in this bill a comprehensive prevention policy that would really try to achieve the objective the minister had in mind. I will have to wait for another bill, because I can find nothing in Bill C-55 that gives me reason to believe the safety of the public, of our children and of society in general will be improved. I see absolutely nothing in this bill that would achieve this.

That being said, the Bloc Quebecois as the official opposition can hardly object to the principle of a bill whose purpose is to protect the public against violent or dangerous offenders, and deficient though the bill may be, there is a principle to which we cannot object.

However, I think the minister should be very careful when he says that this kind of bill will solve practically all our problems. I think he is raising expectations among the public, which clearly will not be met by Bill C-55.

I therefore urge the minister to pay attention to what I just said, to review that part of the bill which concerns the electronic bracelet and electronic monitoring, and remove the part which I think might be challenged by the courts and which would otherwise cost the governments of Canada and Quebec and all taxpayers who would challenge this part of the legislation a fortune in legal fees.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Criminal Code
Permalink
LIB

Jesse Flis

Liberal

Mr. Jesse Flis (Parkdale-High Park, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Annapolis Valley-Hants.

It gives me great pleasure to rise today in support of Bill C-55, an act to amend the Criminal Code for 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. I was pleased to hear that members of the Bloc Quebecois will be supporting the bill.

I would like to congratulate both the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada and the Solicitor General of Canada for introducing this bill as early as they have.

There is no doubt that Canadians are very concerned about personal safety, as well as the safety of their families. Indeed, this bill has already been endorsed by a number of communities and individuals across the country.

Bill C-55 represents one of the most significant initiatives in relation to the criminal justice system in Canada. In keeping with the Liberal election platform, our government is committed to public safety in this country. This promise was reiterated in the throne speech of February 27, 1996, when the government stated: "The non-violent character of our country, safe homes, safe streets, is also an essential element of security for Canadians". The bill fulfils that commitment by taking the necessary steps to ensure the safety of our streets.

The main components of Bill C-55 are threefold. There is a new category created, the long term offender category. This category targets sex offenders and provides for supervision of their movement up to ten years after they have completed their parole and prison sentences. Convictions made in this category can include sexual assault, sexual touching, sexual exploitation, indecent exposure, aggravated sexual assault and sexual assault with a weapon or causing bodily harm.

The second main component of this bill deals with dangerous offenders. The dangerous offender procedure focuses on cases where there is a very high level of brutality. Under the proposed changes a judge will no longer have the discretion and will be required to impose an indefinite sentence.

The crown under current laws may bring an application to declare someone a dangerous offender in the period between conviction and sentencing. However, the amendment to this bill will allow the crown to bring in a dangerous offender application up to six months after conviction.

The third main category of Bill C-55 allows a new judicial restraint provision to be added to the Criminal Code. This will permit pre-emptive controls including electronic monitoring to be applied to individuals. If there are reasonable grounds to believe that an individual has a high risk of committing a serious personal injury offence, the judge can impose conditions on that individual.

In conjunction with these initiatives Bill C-55 discusses alternatives for incarceration of low risk, non-violent offenders. The federal inmate population has increased 22 per cent in the last five years. Canada's incarceration rate is 130 per 100,000 population. This statistic is far ahead of countries such as Britain, which has 92; France, 86; Germany, 81. However, it is also far behind our neighbouring country, the United States, where the rate is 529: in Russia it is 558. Imagine, out of 100,000 population over 500 are sitting in prison.

This is what Reform Party members want this country to lead to. They should be ashamed of themselves. They should go back to their constituents and ask do they want what is in the United States. Do they want what is in Russia? Or do they want the Canadian way

of doing things? I think their constituents will tell them they will have the Canadian way of justice in this country.

Low risk, non-violent offenders are those who have not committed a crime involving personal violence and whose risk of reoffending is low. This government's first priority is the safety of Canadians. Not all offenders need to be imprisoned to achieve this goal of public safety. Promoting measures such as sentencing reforms and community diversion programs as alternatives for imprisonment for first time non-violent offenders at a low risk of reoffending distinguishes between the low risk and the high risk offenders.

This balanced approach by this government came about through consultations with provincial and territorial governments, the National Crime Prevention Council, voluntary organizations and community groups such as Parkdale Focus Community Watch in my riding which met with the minister, and the minister listened to their concerns and those concerns are addressed in this legislation.

In addition, much input was received from individual constituents. This was instrumental in bringing forward this legislation.

The measures announced last week are in response to communities such as Parkdale-High Park where citizens have lived in fear because of a high risk offender being housed in a local correctional facility.

Indeed community safety is a high priority in my riding, as in all of our ridings. This was especially evident when a pedophile was placed at a correctional centre in the west end of Toronto. Bobby Oatway, a third time federal offender, served 10 years for sexual assaults including rape, indecent assault, buggery and bestiality, and was brought into my riding from British Columbia with no prior consultation with the citizen advisory committee which we have set up. In fact, there was no knowledge of his relocation from B.C. to my riding until after his placement.

Mr. Oatway refused treatment while in prison, was considered too dangerous to be returned to his home community in British Columbia, and yet was found to be safe enough to be plunked into our community in the west end of Toronto. If a pedophile is too dangerous in one community, the solution is not to transfer him into another community.

Reform asks why do we not do something about it. We are doing something about it. That is why we are bringing in Bill C-55. I hope we can get speedy passage with the support of the Reform Party.

My constituents were enraged when this individual who had committed atrocious crimes against children was placed in a minimum security facility that is close to five elementary schools, a shelter for battered women and several child care centres. Any parent in this circumstance would be concerned about their children's safety and the potential denial of their children's basic right to life. This bill goes a long way toward protecting the basic right of children, the right to life.

On arrival to Toronto on statutory release, Oatway resided at Keele Community Correctional Centre. He participated in assessments with our district psychologist as well as with the admitting psychiatrist with the Clarke Institute of Psychiatry. He was under 24 hour supervision within the Keele Community Corrections Centre. All access to the community had to be under escort.

The residents living near the centre, community organizations and local politicians mounted such a strong and effective opposition that Mr. Oatway himself requested to be returned to prison in British Columbia.

Under Bill C-55, the Oatways will not be a threat to communities either in B.C. or in Parkdale-High Park. The principle concern that remains within my constituency is why was Bobby Oatway not declared a dangerous offender. The application for dangerous offender must be submitted by the crown upon conviction. This did not occur in this case and the Correctional Service Canada does not have the legislative powers to impose such a designation.

Under the proposed changes the government will now have up to six months after conviction to bring in a dangerous offender. Under the proposal a convicted person found to be a long term offender would be subject to a prison sentence suited to the offence with an additional period of supervision for up to 10 years.

In April I attended a public meeting at Indian Road Crescent Public School where I received almost 1,000 signatures concerning Bobby Oatway. The petition was forwarded to the Minister of Justice and the Solicitor General of Canada and I am pleased that the Liberal government has listened to our communities right across this country by acting appropriately to seek improvements to dangerous offenders legislation and to ensure public safety.

It is my strong belief that these government amendments will extend controls over persons convicted of sex crimes and other violent offences and will give us the measure to monitor their activities. In the event that they recommit, these amendments will put them where they belong, in jail.

Through this legislation there can be an effective combining of policing, prosecution, sentencing, custody, supervision and rehabilitation strategies that will control high risk groups within our society and keep our streets and neighbourhoods safe for our children and the general public.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Criminal Code
Permalink
REF

Jay Hill

Reform

Mr. Jay Hill (Prince George-Peace River, Ref.)

Mr. Speaker, I will be brief since I know some of my colleagues would like to ask questions of the hon. member. I was very interested to listen to his remarks, especially the case of Bobby Oatway, which I am fairly familiar with.

I would like him to explain as succinctly as possible exactly how Bill C-55 will prevent Mr. Oatway from being released? How is it going to get him classified as the dangerous offender that he certainly is? I agree with the member's sentiments about Mr. Oatway, as would all members in this place.

My understanding of Bill C-55 is that they will be able to apply to have people like him classified as dangerous offenders and kept in prison for an indeterminate amount of time, if application is made six months after conviction. But it has been quite a long time. As the member said, Mr. Oatway has already served 10 years. It is not six months after conviction so how will Bill C-55 keep Mr. Oatway in jail where he should be?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Criminal Code
Permalink
LIB

Jesse Flis

Liberal

Mr. Flis

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for the question and I am pleased that he knows the case. It affected communities in British Columbia as well as in Ontario.

Bobby Oatway was released because we did not have Bill C-55. This is why we are bringing in this legislation, so that the judge after sentence has six months to declare him a dangerous offender.

There is a very small population of Canadian criminals that fits into the category of dangerous offender. Before there was no such thing. We are trying to identify the very serious offenders who should not be allowed into communities. That is what this legislation will do. He can actually be in prison indefinitely. If the hon. member would study this bill, he would see that and would convince his party to support it and give it speedy passage.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Criminal Code
Permalink
REF

Art Hanger

Reform

Mr. Art Hanger (Calgary Northeast, Ref.)

Mr. Speaker, I have listened to the comments of the hon. member. I can really identify with what he is saying when it comes to the scenario he outlined regarding Mr. Bobby Oatway, a serious sexual offender. I too had a similar circumstance in my own riding. The unfortunate part is that I do not see Bill C-55 answering the hon. member's concern nor the concerns of other members who have similar situations in their ridings.

A serious sexual offender, unless he is declared a dangerous offender at the time of sentencing, cannot be declared one after that six month period time. Therein lies the problem. There are serious sexual offenders being released into the community after serving their sentence and all authorities have indicated that they are a high risk.

I would suggest that the hon. member look at that legislation the Minister of Justice is putting forward and seek to have him address that particular point because this bill does not.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Criminal Code
Permalink
LIB

Jesse Flis

Liberal

Mr. Flis

Mr. Speaker, again we should make it very clear to the public that the Oatways and Olsons were out endangering communities because we did not have this kind of legislation.

Now, after a judge makes a conviction, the judge still has six months in which to identify him as a dangerous offender, if the information that is collected points this out. Members of the Reform Party are living in the past. They are quoting cases of criminals who have been out endangering our communities. These criminals were doing that because we did not have this legislation.

This legislation does allow us to identify the Olsons and the Oatways as high risk offenders and they can be imprisoned indefinitely if need be.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Criminal Code
Permalink
LIB

John Murphy

Liberal

Mr. John Murphy (Annapolis Valley-Hants, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today and speak in support of Bill C-55.

Since our government took office in 1993, improving public safety has been a major priority and we have passed a series of important legislative initiatives in this regard.

This bill is an important step in our efforts to keep our streets and our homes safe from violence. Members will recall in the 1996 speech from the throne our government pledged to "focus resources on high risk offenders while developing innovative alternatives for low risk offenders". This legislation will ensure that we will meet this commitment.

Let us look for example at the provisions in this bill dealing with high risk offenders. The bill includes a new long term offender designation that targets sex offenders and adds a period of long term supervision of up to 10 years following the release from prison. This designation will apply to people such as sex offenders who are less violent and brutal than dangerous offenders but are found to pose a considerable risk in reoffending.

Now undoubtedly members from the third party will say: "Why not keep these people in jail, lock them up and throw the key away". That seems to be their one and only solution on the issue of crime and justice they put forward.

The reality is that eventually prison sentences will come to an end. For a person who falls under this category, no matter how long they serve, they will some day be released. A long term offender designation will however ensure that offenders are closely monitored beyond the completion of their sentence. Rather than locking people up and throwing away the key, our government is working to find responsible, workable solutions to serious public safety issues.

I believe the best hope for rehabilitation is to gradually reintegrate an offender back into the community. By imposing on the offender an additional period of supervision in the community after the end of his regular sentence, we are giving the offender an opportunity to reintegrate into society. In doing so, we are not putting public safety at risk.

The second component of the bill includes strengthening the dangerous offender provision in the Criminal Code. Again, we have listened to Canadians who have expressed concerns about public safety and we have responded in a forceful yet reasonable manner.

Under the new provisions, anyone who is classified as a dangerous offender will be kept in prison indefinitely. The judge will no longer have the discretion to sentence a dangerous offender to a fixed term. As well, presently the dangerous offender application must be made at trial. Under Bill C-55, the crown will now be able to bring an application forward within six months after conviction.

While members of the third party grandstand day after day posing as defenders of the public's safety, our government is working to ensure that such measures are put in place, measures that will genuinely improve public safety in our communities.

The legislation also includes a new judicial restraint provision. This provision will permit controls, including electronic monitoring, to individuals who pose a high risk of committing a serious personal injury offence. Under these provisions, a judge will have the power to impose general conditions such as keeping the peace, specific conditions appropriate to the kind of threats posed by the individual such as staying away from places where children congregate.

As one of the conditions for example, a judge could order that the program of electronic monitoring be applied in provinces where this option is available. A breach of conditions would constitute a separate criminal offence which could lead to a jail sentence.

The tough new measures we are bringing forward in the bill will address many of the concerns we as members of Parliament hear from our constituents. Over the summer months I held a series of town hall meetings in my riding of Annapolis Valley-Hants. At these meetings the issue of crime and public safety was brought forward on numerous occasions. People are concerned. They want to know that they can walk safely through their communities. They want to know that the violent and sexual offenders will not be free to walk the streets because our justice system has been too lenient on them. They want to know that the punishment will fit the crime.

I would like to read a brief quote from a letter from one of my constituents on this issue. The constituent writes: "I do not want to see a big brother society, but I feel strongly that peaceful citizens have a right to safety on the highway and in their homes". I could not agree more. I believe that the tough new measures included in the bill will address the concerns that we members of Parliament are hearing.

Another important component of Bill C-55 is our approach to low risk non-violent offenders. I am referring to those offenders who have not committed a crime involving personal violence and whose risk of reoffending is assessed to be low. Unlike members of the third party, our government recognizes that not all offenders need to be imprisoned in order to improve public safety.

The experience of American states which have used such an approach should be a lesson to us that incarceration of all non-violent offenders does not necessarily lead to lower levels of crime. Our government recognizes that low risk non-violent offenders can be best dealt with by serving their sentences in the community with appropriate control and supervision. I strongly believe that in such instances our community is best served by promoting rehabilitation and community responsibility rather than just simply locking people up in jails.

Crime is certainly not a simple issue. Our government's approach avoids the kind of simplistic solutions we keep hearing from the third party. Flogging petty criminals and throwing more and more non-violent offenders in prison for long periods of time is not the answer.

Instead, we are taking serious measures to clamp down on violent, sexual or dangerous offenders in our society. At the same time we are promoting community oriented rehabilitation and treatment of non-violent offenders who are not considered a threat to our communities. This is the type of balanced and reasonable approach that will truly make a difference on issues of public safety and crime prevention. That is why I support Bill C-55.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Criminal Code
Permalink
REF

Jim Silye

Reform

Mr. Jim Silye (Calgary Centre, Ref.)

Mr. Speaker, the member referred to the members of the third party, the Reform Party or whatever, as having an attitude on crime of lock them up and throw away the key.

I would like to know which member said that. I would like the member to refer specifically to whose opinion that is and who said that. I do not like a general comment that all Reformers are this or all Reformers are that. Not all Liberals are incompetent, just 95.5-

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Criminal Code
Permalink
?

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Criminal Code
Permalink

October 3, 1996