Mr. Chuck Strahl (Fraser Valley East, Ref.)
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to this bill today. It is an important criminal justice bill which has been talked about and anticipated for a long time and parts of which have been demanded for a long time by members on this side of the House and by Canadian citizens.
There is both good and bad in the bill, as is the case in many bills the government brings forward. I would like to go through some of the positive things which are in this bill and some of the things which we think are mistakes, and to offer my advice and enter into the debate on whether Bill C-55 should be supported.
Usually on this kind of bill which is of a technical nature I try to do work on behalf of my constituents to bring forward what I think would be their analysis and their concerns. The criminal justice system is an issue which is often top of mind in my riding. From my own phone surveys and from more technical surveys that I have had done and from the letters and phone calls I receive in my office, I can say that people are not convinced that the criminal justice system is operating on behalf of the best interests of law-abiding citizens. There is a feeling in many parts of the country, and certainly in my own riding, that there is too much emphasis on the rights, opportunities and demands of the prisoners and not enough emphasis on the rights of the law-abiding citizen.
I would like to talk about an individual case that happened in my own constituency which has ramifications for this bill. Many members of Parliament will probably be able to relate to stories like this because we all have situations which we confront from day to day.
This constituent's name is Carol. She was married to an abusive husband. Her story is really the plight of thousands of women, and even some men I suppose, across Canada. Day in and day out they live in silent fear, not just fear of abuse, but in Carol's case fear for her own life. She was badly beaten by her husband in 1993. She did the right thing, the one which I always encourage spouses in abusive situations to do, and that is to get in touch with the police. She called the police and her husband was charged.
Unfortunately, as is often the case this made her husband very angry. Instead of becoming a chastened man who realized the error in his ways, he became a very angry and dangerous man. And this is where our criminal justice system failed my constituent.
As a bit of an aside, in the October 3 Ottawa Citizen it was stated that even the police are angry at the courts for granting bail to a man accused of forcing a woman out of a 10th storey window. Is there no sense of justice in the justice system? People must ask: How on earth can we grant bail to some of these horrible people? How can the immigration minister grant bail to dangerous offenders? A person who has been convicted of a crime and has escaped justice in the United States can come to Canada, throw himself at the mercy of the Canadian system and say that he needs refugee status, that he is a poor abused person.
The justice system is not balanced. It does not understand that when people do serious crimes, especially personal injury crimes, they need to be addressed in a serious manner. That has not happened to date.
In the same way, the system let my constituent Carol down. Her abusive husband came back with a vengeance. There was a restraining order against him, as there often is, but that was useless. The total protection offered to this poor lady was that the courts had a restraining order on someone who had already beaten her to a pulp. This scuzzy excuse for humanity stalked his former wife, eventually kidnapped her, stabbed her six times nearly killing her, and he was sentenced to two years less a day.
That sentence does not sound too horrible, but this is what it was about. He would come around and tap on her window with a butcher knife. When she would open the drapes there he would be. Although this was well known and well documented, that is what happened. He was charged with aggravated assault for what he did to Carol. He should have been charged with attempted murder but he was charged with aggravated assault and received only a two year sentence. This man will be out of jail any time now and his former wife, Carol, who has changed her name, once again lives in fear.
I sat in the office with this lady, who has made a remarkable recovery, and her father. As with many members of Parliament, these cases are outside my realm of reference. I had no way of knowing how to handle this case. I keep a box of Kleenex on my desk for the people who come in to tell me these stories which I just cannot believe.
They sat there and told me the lead-up to their story. The father said: "Chuck, what would you have me do when this happens again? There is no justice in the justice system. They knew he was trying to kill my daughter. He stabbed her six times and for that he gets two years less a day for aggravated assault. I will tell you what I am going to do. If he taps on my daughter's window again, I am going to kill him. What would you do in that situation?" I told him if he did that he would get 25 years for protecting his daughter, because it would be premeditated murder.
Subtopic: Criminal Code