October 3, 1996

REF

Jim Silye

Reform

Mr. Silye

The member also said that the punishment should meet the crime. In saying that, does he believe that the penalty for premeditated first degree murder is a review after 15 years? After someone receives a lifetime sentence subject to parole, subject to a

review after 25 years, another relaxation for a first degree murderer, a killer who premeditated gets a review after 15 years.

This is the kind of legislation the Liberal government has brought in and all the Liberals voted for. All the Liberals support the view that the punishment should meet the crime. Is that what he believes is an example of the punishment meeting the crime?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Criminal Code
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LIB

John Murphy

Liberal

Mr. Murphy

Mr. Speaker, the member asked about the throwing away of the key.

I do not ever hear Reform Party members talking about rehabilitation and treatment. Instead I hear them say, as I perceive it and hear them day after day in this House, that they would prefer that people who commit crimes should be in jail.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Criminal Code
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REF

Jay Hill

Reform

Mr. Hill (Prince George-Peace River)

You have not listened to my speech.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Criminal Code
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LIB
REF
LIB

John Murphy

Liberal

Mr. Murphy

I am sure it is there.

About the review after 15 years, I spent 30 years in psychiatry and mental health. I have always believed there is the possibility that people can change. If that possibility is there, then we can look at a review of a criminal after 15 years. If that person has not appeared to have any change of heart, has not appeared to have any treatment programs who has not looked like he can change, then we keep him in jail.

However, do we have to keep everybody in jail who has a sentence of 25 years and the opportunity for parole? We as a Liberal government believe that at times criminals can change. Their behaviour can change and they can come back into society to contribute.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Criminal Code
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REF

Jay Hill

Reform

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

Mr. Speaker, I note the member did not answer the question of my hon. colleague from Calgary. I also note the member revealed that his background is in psychiatry and mental health. That points out the real problem we have here. In his remarks he said that he believes everybody can be rehabilitated.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Criminal Code
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LIB
REF

Jay Hill

Reform

Mr. Hill (Prince George-Peace River)

Check Hansard and see what you said, because that is what you said. Mr. Speaker, that is what the hon. member said.

I want him to very clearly state, because Reformers believe and the majority of Canadians believe, that there are some inherently evil people out there who cannot be rehabilitated. We talk about rehabilitation, but we believe that some people cannot be rehabilitated. They have to be kept confined, away from society and away from the opportunity to reoffend. I wonder if the hon. member would agree with that or not.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Criminal Code
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LIB

John Murphy

Liberal

Mr. Murphy

Mr. Speaker, I want to reiterate that I did not say that everybody can be rehabilitated. I said some can be rehabilitated with treatment programs. I still believe some people need to be kept in jail because they are going to be violent criminals for the rest of their lives. I believe that is true as well.

Reformers do not agree that they say this. They say in very subtle ways that with these people they would throw the key away. I do not believe that is the case.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Criminal Code
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?

The Speaker

Will the hon. member for Prince George-Peace River be speaking for the 20 minutes or splitting his time?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Criminal Code
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REF

Jay Hill

Reform

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

Mr. Speaker, I will be speaking for the 20 minutes or close to it.

Perhaps before I get into the text of my speech I would like to rebut what the hon. member from across the way just said in his closing remarks. I do not know of any Reform member that is subtle about anything. Take that as it is.

I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-55 which finally attempts to respond to the concerns that Canadians have regarding high risk offenders in our society. Too many convicted offenders injure or kill after their release and we have become weary of a justice system that caters to the rights of high risk offenders. Unfortunately this legislation does not go nearly far enough to ensure Canadian communities enjoy safety and protection from violent criminals.

While I find it encouraging that the government may actually recognize that the justice system currently fails to adequately deal with dangerous offenders, I am disappointed in the shallow nature of Bill C-55.

As I have stated in this House during debate on Bill C-53, which makes the ludicrous proposal to expand temporary absences for convicted criminals, and during the debate on Bill C-41, which proposes a strong-arm invasive approach to enforcing child support payments, there is a recurring theme in government legislation that is being brought before members for consideration. That theme is an election theme. Evidence of it can be found in the recent series of government bills that attempt a quick fix on hot issues.

Despite their ignorance of the fundamental problems plaguing child custody laws and many aspects of the justice system, the Liberals are ramming through legislation, any legislation, so they can tell voters during the next election that they did something to make changes that Canadians have been demanding.

We know that the Liberals have been content throughout the past three years to do very little in the way of substantial legislation, but with an election looming in their future they are scurrying to

appease voters in the areas that they have previously neglected. This includes the sorry state of our justice system. Canadians have been horrified with consequences resulting from the lenient treatment of dangerous, violent and repeat offenders. There have been demands for tougher sentencing, supervision and more legal options for the crown should it wish to seek dangerous offender status for someone convicted of crimes causing serious personal injury.

With one eye on the election, the Liberals have come up with Bill C-55, and like many Canadians, I am happy to see the government get tougher to any degree with these violent criminals. The bill does not include the fundamental changes required to effectively protect our communities from these individuals. To use an analogy, the proposed legislation may heal some superficial wounds but does little to stop the internal bleeding. With their usual kid glove approach to convicted criminals, the Liberals have barely scratched the surface. With a number of amendments this bill could actually make our streets safer.

I would like to discuss a few of the possible amendments. Reform has proposed that the bill be amended to allow the crown the right to seek dangerous offender status at any time during an offender's jail sentence. Bill C-55 suggests that the crown must give notice at the time of conviction that it may seek dangerous offender status for the convict. The crown will have six months after the conviction to apply for that status.

I do not see why there should be any limitation in seeking dangerous offender status for those who have caused serious personal injury to their victims. Who are we trying to protect: the victims or the violent offenders?

An hon. member opposite tried to clarify this point. I still believe that the hon. member was wrong in his assessment of Bill C-55. He used the example of a violent pedophile who is currently in jail. However, this bill will not prevent that individual from getting out of jail.

Reform has proposed an amendment to the bill which would require courts to automatically place dangerous offender status on anyone who commits a serious personal injury offence on two or more more separate occasions. Such criminals would be imprisoned for an indeterminate period of time.

Another glaring omission in Bill C-55 is the failure to specify the inclusion of pedophiles and sexual predators as dangerousoffenders. It has to be solidly and definitively stated in legislation that these despicable criminals, such as Paul Bernardo, are dangerous and a high risk to the safety of our children and to the safety of the entire country.

Bill C-55 also makes an attempt to remedy section 761 of the Criminal Code which allows for the review of indeterminate sentences for dangerous offenders after just three years. The proposed legislation would increase the period to seven years. I must admit that this is an uncharacteristically rational approach by the Liberals, but, again, it does not go far enough. Given the nature of these offences and in the interest of punishment that fits the crime and the protection of society, Reform has proposed that these sentences be reviewed after 15 years of indeterminate imprisonment.

As I said earlier, it seems as though the government emphasizes taking a softer approach with convicted criminals than it does with the rest of society. In the Liberal version of justice the rights of the criminal are given careful attention, while the rights of society are irrelevant.

We only have to look at the injustice that millions of innocent, law-abiding citizens in the country face because gun control legislation, rammed through by the government, severely impairs their personal freedom. The Liberals encourage minimal incarceration for criminals, but because of Bill C-68, their gun control bill, a law-abiding citizen can face up to 10 years in jail for failing to register a firearm. Section 104 of this draconian bill also allows an inspector to obtain a warrant to search an individual's home for a firearm, even if there is no evidence that a crime has been committed or is about to be committed. Section 104 of Bill C-68 has no place in the Canadian justice system.

Rejecting an individual's right to protect themselves, their home, their family and their property is a frightening prospect. Were the civil liberties and rights of legitimate gun owners ever considered? Were civil rights considered in the drafting of this bill?

Bill C-55 includes a judicial restraint provision to impose restraints on individuals which an attorney general suspects may commit a serious personal injury offence. This might involve the suspected individual being ordered to report to correctional officials or police on a regular basis, or participating in an electronic monitoring program. Note that I used the words "suspected" and "may". That means that a person acquitted by a court of law for any charge or a person who has never been charged with a criminal offence could be forced to undergo monitoring.

There is a great deal of similarity between this provision and section 104 of the gun control legislation in that both impose a restriction on citizens who have not been charged or convicted. We know the Liberals are reluctant to take such invasive measures against convicted criminals for fear of infringing on their rights. However, when an innocent person's rights may be violated, the Liberal concern for the protection of personal freedoms and personal liberty is curiously absent.

Is this the kind of treatment we should expect in a free and democratic society? Is it worth risking an individual's civil rights for technology that is not guaranteed to protect Canadians? Electronic monitoring systems are expensive and impractical in crowded cities where buildings occasionally block out signals.

This clause constitutes a broad, indiscriminate infringement of personal liberty which violates the civil rights of individuals and should be entirely struck from Bill C-55.

It is puzzling that the idea of electronically monitoring unconvicted and uncharged individuals was introduced by the same justice minister who has steadfastly refused to repeal section 745 of the Criminal Code. Dangerous killers, such as Clifford Olson, have the minister to thank for preserving a law that gives them the right to have their sentences reviewed after just 15 years. This tells Canadians that the Liberals are not making the protection of society a priority.

On the other hand, the same minister attempts to justify the infringement of civil rights of innocent Canadians by claiming that the protection of society is paramount. This contradictory legislation is another result of the piecemeal, quick fix Liberal election strategy. It has been reported that even senior officials in the justice department and close friends of the minister tried to persuade him to drop this clause. Reformers think the minister should have listened to them.

The identified problem that the minister was attempting to address was the ineffectiveness of some restraining orders, but how will this clause be used in practice? What safeguards will be in place to prevent future abuse? Admittedly, there is a problem with restraining orders. The most vulnerable members of our society are the ones most at risk from what has become known as stalkers. There are a number of well documented cases where restraining orders have proved to be completely ineffective.

I believe the minister was attempting to solve the problem of improving the effectiveness of restraining orders by imposing electronic monitoring as a means to track these individuals. I support the need for something like this. We also must be cognizant of the possible abuse of this clause if it is not itself carefully monitored.

Another amendment I would like to discuss which will improve the effectiveness of this bill is the elimination of clause 15. It is the opinion of the Reform Party that all Canadians should be treated equally. This means that no individual or group should be given special status. The Liberals are rather fond of conferring special status on certain groups and this only results in inequality.

Under clause 15 aboriginal communities will have the right to receive notice of the release of a high risk offender into their community and the right to become involved in planning for that release. They are given this special privilege while other Canadian communities do not receive such notice or opportunity.

There is no logical or justifiable reason to provide these privileges to one community and not to another. Canadians from all communities have been requesting notification procedures for the release of high risk offenders. Why not enact legislation to implement these measures for all communities? This clause exemplifies piecemeal legislation that seeks to appease certain groups on selected hot button issues and it should either be scrapped or expanded to include notification to all communities.

I reiterate that Bill C-55 has some potential to make a difference. However, it comes up short in keeping our streets safe from violent criminals. I ask myself and many Canadians are asking themselves this question: What is stopping the Liberals from developing justice policies that keep these offenders in jail?

One issue that might answer this query is the severe over crowding and financial burden of the prison system. The Liberals are attempting to reduce corrections costs by letting criminals go free and therefore making more space available. They are instituting lenient parole legislation and letting violent, dangerous criminals out of jail. I emphasize this. There is absolutely no justification for allowing these high risk individuals to roam our streets. Second, it is irresponsible to encourage early release or expanded temporary absences for what the Liberals call lesser criminals, as we saw in Bill C-53.

What will really reduce the number of these types of criminals sitting in jails at taxpayers expense is deterrence. While the government strategy has been to rehabilitate these convicts, we have watched the prison population grow by 22 per cent in the last five years. This is despite the fact that the number of convicts out on probation rose by 40 per cent between 1990 and 1994, and 80 per cent of the 154,000 convicts in the correctional system were out on some form of community supervision in 1994.

The solution to overcrowding and financial problems in the prison system is deterrence. Hard jail time for those convicted of the so-called lesser offences will deter them from committing more crimes and deter those who might commit similar crimes.

Mandatory work, something I mentioned earlier, some outside during winter under conditions that taxpaying, working Canadians face every day, will do more to dissuade these individuals from a life of crime than the longest leisurely stay at a cottage style prison. Then there will be plenty of space and resources available for dangerous, violent, high risk offenders who deserve to rot in jail for raping, mutilating and killing their victims.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Criminal Code
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LIB

Nick Discepola

Liberal

Mr. Nick Discepola (Parliamentary Secretary to Solicitor General of Canada, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, to the member for Calgary Centre who asked us to name one person in this party who subscribes to the philosophy of lock them up for life, I would like to quote for his benefit Hansard , September 17, page 4316, the Reform member for Calgary Northeast:

We say that for every criminal who is convicted of a violent crime for a second time, he or she should be sentenced to imprisonment for life without eligibility for early release or parole.

To me that means locking them up and throwing away the key. I hope I have answered the question for the hon. member.

The member who just spoke raised the question of why we are allowing the crown six months to apply for dangerous offender category? It is very simple. During that six months new evidence could arise that would be beneficial to the crown. I refer to recent cases such as the Bernardo case where there was evidence after the fact that tapes were available.

He also referred to the clause on stalking and he agrees that we should take measures to allow correctional services a mechanism to prevent stalking. I know statistics can be played with and some members are very good at that. But when we look at the statistics over 50 per cent of offenders are known to the victims. It is usually the husband or the spouse, a direct member, when sexual abuse and violence occurs. As a result there is no mechanism.

We have heard of a case from the Montreal area where a woman had been stalked by her husband for over a year and the police were helpless, until finally she was murdered. Then the police had the law to intervene.

I ask the hon. member if he believes we should remove this provision from the law. What procedure would he propose that would allow the police jurisdiction to intervene without necessarily infringing on the rights of people? If the member took the time to look at the bill he would know that before a restraining order can obtained, one must apply to a judge. It is not automatic. The judge would review the case and if the judge feels that there is sufficient grounds to justify the restraining order then it is very inexpensive way for us to monitor the movement of that person. With a bracelet for example, we would know at any time where the individual is. I ask the hon. member how he proposes to prevent fear in the women who are stalked night after night.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Criminal Code
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REF

Jay Hill

Reform

Mr. Hill (Prince George-Peace River)

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his many comments and questions. I will try to address them in the same order he made them.

The member's first comment was about some Reform members. He cited one who said that after a conviction for a second violent offence those people should be locked up forever. I guess the obvious question to pose back to the hon. member is how many times does someone have to commit a violent, horrendous, despicable crime on innocent members of society before the Liberals would lock them up and quit letting them out.

We say that if someone commits a crime twice it should be enough. Do the Liberals want them to do it five or six times and have more victims before they finally lock them up?

The second point made by the hon. member was an explanation for the provision of the six-month window to have the prosecution apply to the courts to have a convicted felon declared a dangerous offender. I understand the reason for the window, but what I suggested in my speech is that it should be wide open. We should be able to retroactively apply it to people who are already in jail to keep them there.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Criminal Code
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?

An hon. member

There are charter rules.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Criminal Code
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REF

Jay Hill

Reform

Mr. Hill (Prince George-Peace River)

The member is indicating there are charter rules which prevent that. Then I am suggesting that we have to change the charter. We have to do something. We cannot simply sit here, as the Liberals do, and throw up our hands and say we cannot do it. That is simply not good enough.

Earlier when one of the member's colleagues was talking, he specifically mentioned a horrendous case, the case of Bobby Oatway, and said that Bill C-55 would solve this problem. The reality is that Bill C-55 does not solve the problem of existing dangerous pedophiles like Oatway who are currently in the prison system. It will do nothing to prevent them from getting out of jail, which is the point we are trying to make.

The last point that was made by the hon. member was what was my suggestion, if we drop this clause, to prevent stalking. I think he made a very good point. What I was bringing to his attention was that with this legislation I am concerned about possible abuse. I recognize, as I did in my speech, that there is a need to address this issue. My concern is not that it will be used where it is justified to help innocent victims who are in fear of their lives but that it will possibly be abused by the authorities, one way or another, to infringe on the rights of people who should not have to undergo electronic monitoring.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Criminal Code
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?

The Deputy Speaker

Before resuming debate, it is my duty, pursuant to our standing orders, to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Saskatoon-Clark's Crossing, employment; the hon. member for The Battlefords-Meadowlake, agriculture.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Criminal Code
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LIB

Andy Mitchell

Liberal

Mr. Andy Mitchell (Parry Sound-Muskoka, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to talk about Bill C-55. It deals with an issue of great importance to my constituents, the whole issue of public safety and protecting Canadians from violent offenders.

While the proposals in this bill introduce tough new measures to deal with high risk offenders in our society, they also introduce a number of initiatives to deal with non-violent offenders who are at low risk at reoffending.

The proposed sentencing and corrections reforms incorporated in the bill build on current criminal and correction laws. They extend controls over those people convicted of sex crimes and other violent offences and aim to reduce the risk of repeat offenders.

One of the most significant parts of these proposals is the establishment of a new sentencing category. This category is to be called long term offender and I believe this is an important new designation that will work well for the better protection of society as a whole.

Most people are familiar with the dangerous offender provisions in the Criminal Code because this designation has proven to be a useful mechanism for sentencing serious offenders who pose a high risk of committing further violent offences.

This long term offender designation would be equally effective. Long term offenders would be subject to an application procedure similar to that of a dangerous offender. The procedure would apply to people convicted of sexual assault and other sexual offences.

Under the proposal the convicted person found at a special hearing to be a long term offender would be subject to an appropriate sentence and an additional supervision period of up to 10 years.

Every long term offender would also be subject to standard conditions such as keeping the peace and not being allowed to possess firearms. Further specialized conditions can also be added to ensure close supervision of the offender such as regular reporting to an assigned supervisor and mandatory participation in counselling, electronic monitoring and other rehabilitation programs.

I support this initiative and I support the government in its attempt to make our homes and streets safer for all Canadians.

Bill C-55 goes even further. Not only is the category of long term offender being created, the dangerous offender provisions are also being strengthened.

Because under the current law a judge has the discretion to sentence a dangerous offender to a fixed term, under these new proposed changes a judge will no longer have the discretion and will be required to impose an indefinite sentence, thus better protecting members of our society from these dangerous and repeat offenders and keeping them behind bars.

In addition, the crown will now have up to six months after conviction to bring in a dangerous offender application. Currently the application must be made at trial. Sometimes new information surfaces after the completion of a trial and this new information may be critical to the service of justice and to the protection of society from dangerous offenders. I definitely support this proposed change as well.

The reforms to Bill C-55 are simply the latest initiatives in a long series of federal justice initiatives designed to better protect Canadians.

Members of the third party stand in this House day after day and suggest that the government is not fulfilling its obligation to protect Canadian society against criminals, against violence. That is absolutely wrong. The Minister of Justice has produced strong legislation in this House time and time again that protects Canadians. The really strange thing about this is every time he proposes increased sentences, every time he proposes better protection of Canadians, the third party votes against it.

When we proposed and passed legislation that would have increased sentences for young offenders who commit violent crimes, the government supported it. It was government legislation. Look at the Reform Party. A vast majority of its members voted against young offenders who commit violent offences from having longer sentences. Check Hansard . The majority of them voted against it.

For my colleagues opposite, I will list some things. This one they will find difficult to deal with. We have created a national crime prevention council because part of dealing with criminals, part of dealing with justice in society is to work toward dealing with some of the underlying causes.

The third party might have some difficulties with that concept but we have dealt with it. We instituted a flagging system for use by Canadian police to identify high risk offenders.

We established a new mandatory five year sentence for those convicted of using violence to force children into prostitution. I guess that is being soft on criminals. We classify as first degree any murder committed while stalking. I guess that is being soft on criminals, according to the third party.

We have increased sentences for those convicted of stalking and we have specifically dealt with the issue of eliminating the drunken defence and giving the police the tools and means to issue warrants so that they can get DNA samples. I guess, according to the third party, that indeed is mollycoddling to criminals. It is not.

We talked about violence in society. It was the government that introduced legislation that increased the minimum sentence for using a firearm in the commission of a criminal offence by 400 per cent.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Criminal Code
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REF
LIB

Andy Mitchell

Liberal

Mr. Mitchell

It classified the smuggling of firearms as an enterprise crime that carries up to a 10-year sentence.

Mr. Speaker, you can hear all the noise in the Chamber because they hate being told that the government is dealing with the justice issues. They simply ignore them and every time they vote against them.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Criminal Code
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October 3, 1996