November 6, 1997

PC

Gerald Keddy

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Gerald Keddy

Madam Speaker, I spoke in the simplest terms I could find. I reached back as far as I could to put it in the Reform style mantra, that ABC type of thing that they like. I have explained it as best I can. I cannot explain it any more. It is quite simple. Look at the facts.

Along with that there has been an increase in the business climate and the economy of the nation. We do have unacceptable unemployment, absolutely. Something needs to be done about it, a lot more than just talking about it. We have to take some action.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Supply
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An hon. member

But you did not do anything about it.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Supply
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PC

Gerald Keddy

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Gerald Keddy

I can repeat it one more time and then maybe we can put it to bed.

Free trade was brought in by one party. That allowed economic growth. It drove the manufacturing sector of this nation. It allowed this country to benefit from low interest rates, from low unemployment, from low inflation that we have today. If it had not been for that, we would have been in three or four times worse shape than we are in now.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Supply
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LIB

Murray Calder

Liberal

Mr. Murray Calder (Dufferin—Peel—Wellington—Grey, Lib.)

Madam Speaker, there is a very interesting debate going on over there. It is quite comical.

I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak in this debate and to describe the many ways that Quebec benefits from the actions of the Government of Canada and especially from the social spending benefits that Quebec gets. One of the most obvious benefits is being part of the country that the United Nations has recognized as the best place in the world to live. As Canadians and Quebeckers this is a shared privilege, one that we can all be proud of.

Canada is a respected member of the G-7, of the OECD, of NAFTA, of APEC and other international organizations. Membership in these important organizations provides Canadians with the commercial linkages that are necessary for success in a competitive global economy. This is something that benefits all Canadians and especially Canadian companies doing business in world markets.

The Minister of Human Resources Development recently attended a meeting of employment and labour ministers of 29 countries of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. At that meeting his colleagues from these other countries referred to Canada as the Canadian miracle. Our ability to meet the challenges of economic, political and social change that so many others are going through is quite remarkable and has added to Canada's international strength and reputation.

At the federal level we have been successful in restoring the nation's finances. The deficit this government inherited will be eliminated no later than 1998-99. The Canadian dollar is sound. There is a feeling of confidence and optimism in the national economy. Quebeckers have been major beneficiaries of these positive developments through lower interest rates for mortgages and consumer loans, as well as in many other ways in business and improved prospects for export sales.

Because of the dramatic improvement in our financial situation, we have regained some flexibility in our social program planning. One of the most significant examples of this is the national child benefit that was presented in the last federal budget. This novel idea is an example of a new style of Canadian federalism that works. All levels of government of every political stripe are working together to bring forward a new social program to help children and their families. This may be the most important new program of this generation. There will be many potential benefits for the people of Quebec.

The mechanics are simple. The Government of Canada will increase the federal child tax credit and thus the income of low income families. This will reduce demands for social assistance payments at the provincial and territorial level. Each province or territory can then take its savings in social assistance and reinvest them in programs and services to directly help parents on social assistance move into employment, and low income working families to stay in the labour force. Thus each province will have new money freed up to use for its special needs.

Under the program as it is now conceived, beginning in July 1998 Quebec will have the use of an additional $150 million to provide programs and services directly to Quebeckers. This program shares the same objectives as the family policy proposed by Quebec and it will help Quebec to implement it. The national child benefit is good for Quebec families and children, but the Government of Quebec so far has opposed it.

Fortunately, Quebeckers are able to fully participate in the national employment insurance program and are among its major beneficiaries. The legislation passed by this House one year ago to set up the new employment insurance system introduced several new measures to improve the employability of Canadians.

For example, a system of targeted wage subsidies was introduced to encourage employers to hire EI claimants by offsetting a portion of their wages. We expect this will help some 8,000 Canadians to gain valuable on the job experience this year and many of these will be Quebeckers.

The new EI program also includes a self-employment assistance component to support unemployed individuals who want to start their own businesses. An estimated 6,000 new entrants will be supported under this part of the program this year, and many of them will be Quebeckers. Some 35,000 are taking training courses while receiving EI benefits, and many of these are Quebeckers.

It is clear that Quebeckers are benefiting very much from the new EI program. Of the $880 million that will be reinvested annually in active employment measures across Canada, by the year 2002 about $252 million, almost one-third, will be going to Quebec.

We are also concerned about providing support for areas of the country where unemployment is high and where jobs are hard to find. In these areas employment insurance eligibility requirements are the lowest and the benefit entitlements are the highest. A number of these special areas are in Quebec. We have introduced the transitional jobs plan to work with local partners to invest together in creating lasting jobs in high unemployment areas.

At the national level about 400 transitional job fund projects have been approved and 188 of them are in Quebec. There have been 22,500 jobs created and 14,500 of them are in Quebec. The Government of Canada has invested a total of $158 million in these projects to date, $81 million of it is in Quebec. The objective of the transitional job fund is to lever other source funds to create long lasting employment in high unemployment areas. It has proven to be a very useful program for employers and workers in the province of Quebec.

I refer to the labour market agreement that was signed by the governments of Quebec and Canada earlier this year. As well as demonstrating that federalism can and does work, this agreement signalled a transfer of active employment measures funded by the employment insurance account from the federal to the provincial levels of government. For the first five years of the agreement, the province of Quebec will receive some $500 million a year to offer to its residents a tailored employment program and measures that will help them integrate into the labour market. That is a historical agreement, a major change in the way things are being done in the federation.

Over the next five years we estimate that the Government of Canada will have made available more than $2.7 billion to Quebec under the labour market agreement.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Supply
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The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

It being 5.50 p.m., it is my duty to interrupt the proceedings. Pursuant to order made earlier this day all the questions necessary to dispose of the business of supply are deemed to have been put and the recorded divisions are deemed requested and deemed deferred until Tuesday, November 18, 1997 at the expiry of the time provided for government orders.

(Divisions deemed demanded and deferred)

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Supply
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The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

The House will now proceed to consideration of Private Members' Business as listed on today's Order Paper .

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Supply
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REF

Randy White

Reform

Mr. Randy White (Langley—Abbotsford, Ref.)

moved that Bill C-211, an act to amend the Criminal Code (arrest of those in breach of condition of parole or statutory or temporary release), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Madam Speaker, I believe this bill is before us today because as members of this House we are truly concerned with the need to improve the safety and security of our citizens.

This bill was not my idea. It is a product of many discussions between police officers and politicians across the country. I hope to be able to influence members of the House enough so that we get this bill into committee. I do hope members opposite do not take the view that this is already law because it is not.

Police officers in all of our ridings need our help on this issue. I will explain why. But first we should know that many politicians look at new ideas and ask, why? Good politicians should look at new ideas as a challenge and say, why not? That is where we are today.

I will first explain what Bill C-211 does. The bill establishes that a police officer may arrest without warrant, detain and bring before a justice a person the officer reasonably believes is in breach of a condition of a bail or a probation order, a condition of a conditional sentence or a condition of statutory release, parole or unescorted temporary absence.

Why is this necessary? Today if an offender, perhaps a pedophile, is in your community on unescorted temporary absence from a prison, and is at a children's playground, where he is not obviously permitted to be under the conditions of his unescorted temporary absence and someone recognizes him in the playground where children are and calls a policeman. That policeman must attempt to get a warrant for his arrest before arresting him.

Most of us understand the rationale of what it takes to get a warrant for arrest. It is difficult and it is time consuming. That is to say the least. It is abundantly clear that such a pedophile will not stay in that area very long knowing full well that a policeman is on his track.

To try to apprehend a pedophile on a release, on conditions, who is at a playground by getting a warrant signed by a judge somewhere in a community is just unreasonable to expect. The outcome of such a story unfortunately is all too often the same. The police do not apprehend the individual who is breaking the condition because they do not have a warrant. They know they cannot get it fast enough and the criminal gets away. Worse yet, in many cases, some unsuspecting person becomes a victim.

Our police need our help and understanding, not our fighting. Let us get this bill to a committee and have the police speak to it. They will tell us all in the justice committee exactly what the problems are. We will surely hear stories that will shake Canadians across the country.

We are today in a situation where I have police coming to me describing time and time again situations that are happening. Let me give some of the conditions imposed that a police officer may operationally find himself confronting when the officer encounters an offender in our community during the course of his duties. In the course of a policeman's duties, he may respond to calls of service, traffic enforcement, field interviews, all those sorts of things that a policeman does in his everyday business.

Conditions given to a person on UTA, unescorted temporary absence or on parole, are like this: remain at all times within the territorial boundaries fixed by the parole supervisor. There are times when policemen find somebody outside those boundaries. Obey the law and keep the peace: they often find a person on UTA in a fight.

The person on UTA must at all times carry the release certificate and the identity card provided by the releasing authority and produce them on request for identification to peace officers. In many cases, police may ask for that identification card. If a person does not have it on them, what do the police do? They have to get a warrant. They have to say “Excuse me, would you wait here for six hours? I will be back”. It just does not work.

A person on UTA cannot own, possess or have control of any weapon as defined in section 2 of the Criminal Code, except as authorized by a parole supervisor.

A person on UTA has to abstain from the use of alcohol. This happens in my community many times where a person out on a temporary absence or out from one of the many prisons we have in my area—at least seven federal and something like 10 provincial—is found in a bar. They know they are not supposed to be there.

It is not rational for a policeman to say “Just hang on there. Don't drink. Stay there. I'll be back in a little while”. The reason the condition is put on that person in the first place is because that person got into trouble and ended up in a prison because they were drinking.

What happens when the policeman goes? Typically, the individual gets into trouble and it is an unsuspecting individual who is on the wrong end of the stick.

Another condition for a person on UTA is submitting to a breathalyzer on demand of a peace officer where reasonable grounds exist to believe the offender is breaching a condition of abstinence from alcohol or abstaining from the use of drugs other than prescribed medication and over the counter drugs.

Non-communication with specified individuals. More than once an individual out on UTA is right back with the bad crowd again. The police officer comes across the bad crowd in his normal course of business, knows the individual is there but cannot do anything about it.

Another condition is not to own or operate a motor vehicle. These conditions go on and on but I wanted to give the House an idea of all of the restraints or conditions that are on people who come out of prison where a police officer is basically hamstrung because he needs a warrant to arrest.

For example, an offender is released on parole with a condition to abstain from alcohol. Some of these examples actually have been given to me by police operating in this country. During contact with the police, the offender is found to be intoxicated, a direct violation of his parole.

The police officer has no authority to arrest the offender as a result of the condition of breach. Instead, the offender's parole supervisor must be notified. The parole may be suspended and then the police officer may take action if the offender is subsequently located again and arrested on the authority of a warrant issued pursuant to sections 118, 135 or 136 of the Canada Corrections Act.

Members can see why policemen basically look at the situation and say “I just can't get a warrant” and this is going to happen. It is in the process of happening so no action can be taken.

In the meantime, the offender has posed a risk to the community, say most police. To further frustrate the situation, the offender may have to submit to a breathalyzer on demand. If the offender is intoxicated and is demanded to submit to a breathalyzer but refuses, the police officer has no immediate authority to take the offender into custody.

Peace officers are given the responsibility to protect life and property, prevent crime, apprehend criminals and enforce the law.

A peace officer may arrest a person and assist in the prosecution of that person. Where the offence is disposed of by conviction, there are several avenues open to the court in dealing with the person.

If the person is placed on probation various conditions may be imposed on the person. Section 495 of the conditional release act permits the arrest of the person, without warrant, when a peace officer finds the person breaching any of the conditions of probation. However, an offender who is convicted and sentenced to a term of incarceration in a penitentiary, which is generally reserved for those more serious offences and repeat offences, may subsequently be released into the community with conditions.

Ironically, many of these conditions of release are similar to the conditions of probation. However, a peace officer has no authority to apprehend the offender whom the peace officer finds in violation of the condition. They can be actually very similar to the conditions of probation, yet they can arrest.

I talked to a young policeman in my riding, Mike Novakowski, who will be receiving a meritorious award for working so hard on this particular bill. He gives me this example.

He gives this example. If a person steals a chocolate bar from a grocery store and is charged and convicted of theft, it is not uncommon that when the person is sentenced they are placed on probation. When the person violates a condition of their probation and is caught by the police, police may arrest the person without a warrant and detain that person according to the law. That person may be charged and convicted of an additional crime, which is breach of probation.

However, says Mike, if a person is charged and convicted of aggravated sexual assault and is sentenced to a penitentiary, he or she may be released prior to expiration of the sentence on parole, on statutory release or unescorted temporary absence with conditions. If that person violates a condition of that release and is caught by the police, the police may not arrest that person without a warrant. Canada corrections must make an after the fact judgement, issue a warrant and then that warrant may subsequently be executed by police.

I know what I might hear from the other side, that this can be taken care of through other routes. That is what I am trying to explain. The other routes are going to Canada corrections, trying to get action taken for the particular situation the police are in and perhaps they might get a warrant or an after the fact judgement. The problem is you could be dealing with, in many cases are dealing with in my community, pedophiles, sexual offenders. Policemen cannot wait and even expect the convict, the offender, to stay there while they fetch a warrant. It is unreasonable to even ask.

The purpose of this bill is to protect our citizens even more by helping our police. This is really, and should be, a non-partisan issue in this House, an issue that can be resolved with the help of my colleagues. There are no financial implications to this bill and no inappropriate power given to our police officers; just more protection for you, me and our families as a Canadian people.

I know in this House that private members bills are an interesting subject and the subject of much debate. There is much controversy with private members bills because many of us believe they do not go anywhere unless the cabinet agrees. Many private members bills are not votable. Those that are seem to end up dying after second reading.

If they get to committee we seldom see them get out of committee and return to the House for report stage and third reading. I recall very few bills which have been successful. These bills would help ordinary Canadians.

The motivation behind this bill did not come from a politician, it came from the police. They are asking for our assistance.

What we have to do is wake up to the fact that the people out there in the communities, the grassroots people, are going to their members of Parliament and asking for private members bills. They want them to be debated, voted on and carefully assessed.

I have seen bills enter this House which most people in Canada do not relate to in any way. Quite frankly, they could not care less. Many of the bills I see coming from my colleagues in the House are grassroots bills. They are effective. They do things. They protect. They change our society.

On April 29, I introduced a private member's bill in the House on victims rights. I guess I was a little naive at that time. I thought that when we all accepted it in the House it would go somewhere. Several million Canadians were hoping that one day they would see a national victims bill of rights.

We had a great debate in the House that day. Everybody agreed with it. It got stuck somewhere in committee. Parliament was dissolved for an election and the bill died on the order paper. No one on the government side resurrected it.

We had an interesting discussion in the House the other day when we debated a private member's bill on drunk driving. It was a votable motion put forward by the Reform Party. My concern at the time was what was going to happen next. Everybody in the House agreed with it. Where will it go? What assurances do we have when these bills go to committee that they will be put into effect?

Constable Novakowski, an Abbotsford policeman, put a lot of work into this bill. He did a lot of research. He and his colleagues believe in the House. They believe in what we are doing. They believe we can effect change for them and for their families and our families. We cannot disappoint these people time and time again. If truly good private members bills are introduced, regardless of who introduces them, we cannot continue to disappoint these people.

This is a practical common issue. I hope my colleagues on the other side do not once again say that it is already in place, that there are laws which affect it and that we can arrest these people. I can assure them that if they let this get to committee they will have police from every force in the country come to the committees to tell them that it does not work.

We must have change. There is nothing more frustrating than a policeman coming on the scene, knowing that an offender is ready to snap, ready to break, ready to reoffend, and there is virtually nothing they can do until that person perpetrates yet another crime.

That says nothing at all about our willingness.

I ask my colleagues to look at this and trust that we will do something within committees and bring these peace officers forward and say we will try to help them and try to help ourselves in doing so.

I ask members to vote positively for Bill C-211.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
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LIB

Nick Discepola

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to address Bill C-211, a private member's bill, which seeks to amend the Criminal Code provisions relating to arrests without warrants.

I appreciate this opportunity to discuss an important aspect of criminal law which is not always well understood.

The bill, as introduced by the hon. member, would have two consequences. First, it would amend the Criminal Code by making a breach of a condition of parole or statutory or temporary release an indictable offence.

This means the police would have the power to arrest, without a warrant, an offender concerning whom it would have reasonable grounds to believe that he made or is about to make a breach of a condition of his parole or statutory or temporary release. This power is already provided in the Criminal Code for breach of probation.

The bill would also amend the Criminal Code by giving a parole board the power, following the arrest of an offender, to release him or to ask a judge to keep him in custody until it is able to issue a warrant of apprehension.

The present government has protection of the public at heart, protection from the potential risks of paroled offenders, and it has adopted several legislative measures or practices in this respect.

I would like to dispel certain inaccuracies and false ideas on which the hon. member's bill is based.

As far as the breach of conditions of parole, statutory or temporary release, as well as the prevention of such breaches,are concerned, I would like to point out that the Corrections and Conditional Release Act already gives correctional authorities all of the powers necessary to suspend an offender's parole.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
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An hon. member

No, it does not.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
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LIB

Nick Discepola

Liberal

Mr. Nick Discepola

Read the law. This makes it possible for the police to arrest the offender and to place him in custody.

As for an offender who has received permission for an unescorted temporary release, an order for suspension may be issued if the reasons for which the permission was issued have changed or no longer exist, or if there is fresh information which would have altered the initial decision if available at the time it was made.

As for offenders on parole or statutory release, Correctional Services Canada and the National Parole Board may, at any time, issue a suspension warrant if they deem this necessary and reasonable for the protection of society.

Such a mandate would permit the reincarceration of a delinquent until his case could be examined by the National Parole Board.

Some people might wonder why the police do not have the same power of direct apprehension with respect to delinquents under federal responsibility who are on parole as they do for probationers.

I would like to clarify a few points on this matter, by explaining the significant differences between probation under provincial jurisdiction and parole under federal jurisdiction, whether we are talking of conditional release, statutory release or unescorted temporary absence.

Probation is a court disposition which is not granted by the parole board. It is a breach of probation and is a criminal offence because it constitutes a violation of a court order. And when a breach of probation occurs, police have the same authority to arrest the person without a warrant, as they would any other person who is committing a criminal offence.

Parole, statutory release and temporary absence, on the other hand, are not court orders. They are forms of conditional release granted either by the National Parole Board or the correctional service of Canada. All three types of releases are designed to facilitate the reintegration of offenders into the community as law-abiding citizens.

Conditions of parole, statutory release and temporary absence constitute restrictions placed on the offender that assist the parole supervisor in managing the offender's risk while on conditional release. Because breaches of these conditions do not constitute criminal activity, board members and Correctional Service Canada staff are in the best position to determine when it is necessary to suspend the conditional release in order to manage the offender's risk and protect the community.

A person on parole, for example, may have advised his supervisor that, for good reason, he will be 15 minutes later than the time set for his return to the halfway house. In such a case, the supervisor can, in full knowledge of the facts, decide not to suspend parole.

Without such information, however, a police officer could arrest the delinquent for failing to meet the condition, even though he may be no immediate threat to society.

This would conflict with the parole plans approved by the National Parole Board and would weaken the board's authority.

Although it could be argued that the member's bill is aimed at more serious offences, I would like to stress that, when police officers surprise an offender on conditional release in the act of committing a criminal offence, or when they have reasonable grounds to believe that a particular offender has committed or is on the point of committing a criminal offence, they already have all the power necessary to arrest him again without a warrant.

Therefore the issue raised by the member's bill is not whether the powers of the police should be broadened in order to allow them to make arrests without warrants, but rather whether the powers they now have, and the correctional practices in effect, are sufficient to allow the police to take rapid action in situations where offenders on conditional release present a risk to the community.

Our priority is the protection of the public, as I have already mentioned, and our government has taken many measures in this regard. There have also been a number of initiatives in recent years to improve the transmission of information between the Correctional Service of Canada and the police, in order to ensure better management of offenders on conditional release under federal responsibility.

One key information sharing improvement is the ability to enhance information of the Canadian Police Information Computer Network, commonly known as CPIC. Through a link between CPIC and the Correctional Service Canada offender management system, police forces have direct access to information on conditionally released offenders including their conditions of release.

To enable police to respond promptly whenever they suspect a federal offender has breached a condition of parole or unescorted temporary absence, Correctional Service Canada has a national network of duty officers who are available 24 hours a day seven days a week.

This network is in place in each region of the Correctional Service Canada and all police departments have been notified of the duty officer's phone number. Upon being advised by a police officer of a breach or potential breach of parole, the duty officer can issue a suspension of warrant right on the spot, which gives the police the authority to arrest the offender and promptly bring him or her into custody.

Again, to ensure the police can respond as fast as possible, the Corrections and Conditional Release Act also authorizes the facsimile transmission of warrants and gives police officers the authority to arrest the offender, without warrant, on the knowledge that one has been issued.

As the hon. members will note, the police already have the powers and the means they need to intervene quickly when they see that a federal delinquent has failed to meet the conditions of his release.

The member's bill assumes that the police are limited in the measures they can take to protect the public or that they are subject to unreasonable time frames, but the fact is that this has never really been proved.

I would point out that, in the absence of such proof, provisions that would give the police broader powers to arrest without warrant people on parole who have not committed a criminal offence will most likely not stand up to a challenge based on the charter of rights.

In conclusion, the government fully supports the objective of better protection for the community, and we cannot support this bill.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
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BQ

Michel Bellehumeur

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Michel Bellehumeur (Berthier—Montcalm, BQ)

Madam Speaker, when there is talk of parole, probation orders and so on, I believe that there is misunderstanding among the public and I believe that the Reform Party also has a poor understanding, or perhaps it suits them not to understand, because it is such a juicy topic. They can drag out specific cases, and really talk altogether off topic.

The bill we have before us is a type of bill that does not reflect reality. I am not saying there are no problems in the parole system or in application of the Criminal Code. On the contrary, I believe there are shortcomings. I believe there is room for improvement in the Criminal Code and in the Corrections and Conditional Release Act. I do not believe, however, that Bill C-211 is what is going to solve the problem.

What is important here? Whether it is the Criminal Code and its provisions relating to probation orders, or the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, the criterion is protecting society. At this time, do the courts, the law enforcement bodies in Quebec and Canada have the proper tools to do their job properly? My answer must be yes.

Are the police officers, the correctional system, the courts, making the proper use of those tools, applying them in the way they were meant to be used? Maybe, maybe not. That depends on the circumstances.

I sincerely believe that, with sections 494, 495, 496 and 497 of the Criminal Code, a broad range of cases are covered, as the Reform Party said just now.

I cannot sit by while they distort the facts. I am a member of an opposition party, but an opposition party that is fair. I try to do my job as honestly as possible, to be as realistic as possible, and I cannot, even though I am in the opposition, sit still and listen to nonsense spouted in the House. I will give you four examples that I heard during the Reform Party's discourse.

The first, and this is a favourite topic of the Reformers, was what they had to say about pedophiles. They say that a pedophile on conditional release who is near a playground will jump on the first victim he sees. I know it does not suit you to hear the facts. I know there is an immense gulf separating us, but I would ask you as politely as possible to at least listen to what Quebec has to say.

That having been said, with the provisions of the Criminal Code—

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
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Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
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BQ

Michel Bellehumeur

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Michel Bellehumeur

Madam Speaker, would you please ask that bunch of Reform members to keep quiet.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
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An hon. member

Maybe you don't have institutions like we do.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
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The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

Would hon. members please give everyone a chance to hear the speeches.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
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BQ

Michel Bellehumeur

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Michel Bellehumeur

Madam Speaker, I was saying that there are four items of misinformation and I will name them right off. Then I will give them the right information.

The case of the pedophile. The case of the person who is on probation and ordered to stay out of bars, and ends up drinking in a bar. The individual who is impaired and is arrested by a police officer, who can do nothing because the person is on parole. That is another such case. The thief who cannot be arrested even if caught in the act. These are all inaccuracies.

As far as the pedophile is concerned, if there are conditions attached to his parole and he is found by a playground, it is false to say that the police can do nothing. The police officer will use what I have here, the Criminal Code. Maybe I should give them a copy, as they seem not to have one.

It indicates very clearly—under section 497—that a police officer, in fact, any person may arrest another person if he has reasonable grounds to believe that—

Provision is made in the Criminal Code for pedophiles and for a person in a bar too. On top of that, the Corrections and Conditional Release Act contains a mechanism respecting individuals released under certain conditions or on statutory release, who fail to meet the conditions. There are revocation mechanisms, the police can go and get them and so on.

The worst I heard concerns being under the influence. When an individual is on parole or statutory release and drives under the influence of alcohol, the arresting police cannot take him to the police station even if he refuses to take the breathalyser test.

Did the Reform Party recount anything more inexact or grosser this evening? I do not think so. Under the Criminal Code, under all the provisions pertaining to driving under the influence, anyone refusing to take a breathalyser test is committing an offence and can be taken to the station and charged with refusing to obey police.

Is it usual to twist the facts in such a way for political purposes? I think it is for political purposes.

The final example is theft, and breaking and entering. It is very true that the police may arrest an individual, as may anyone under section 494, whether or not he is a police officer, who notices an individual in the act of committing an offence arrest that individual, and particulary if he is a police officer. I think that there is a misunderstanding, or that they are deliberating distorting the meaning of these sections.

That having been said, I do not want to repeat what the parliamentary secretary to the Solicitor General said regarding the mechanism envisaged. It can perhaps be improved.

As I said at the outset, there is undoubtedly room for improvement, but this is not the kind of improvement needed. The more I listen to the Reform Party members, the more I can see where they are headed. In the end, what they want is a justice system that is a bit like a robot, that is programmed to apply the right sections. The judges would be replaced by a computer. All the evidence would be fed into the computer and out would come the answer, an inhuman answer that does not take into account every relevant fact and serves but one specific goal: scoring political points.

I may be a sovereignist, a nationalist, a Quebec nationalist, still I can recognize that some things work in this system. I think that, all in all, as flawed and imperfect as it may be, these things we should work at improving over time, our justice system is an excellent system.

I do not think that amendments like the one proposed in Bill C-211 before us this evening will do much to improve on the current system. On the contrary, I think it would confuse the courts, complicate things to achieve what the Criminal Code and the relevant legislation already provide for.

For all these reasons, the Bloc Quebecois will vote against private member's Bill C-211.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
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NDP

Bill Blaikie

New Democratic Party

Mr. Bill Blaikie (Winnipeg—Transcona, NDP)

Madam Speaker, I remind members that this is private members' hour. I regret to say that from time to time we seem to get into the sort of debate which assumes that a bill put forward by a private member of the Reform Party is somehow a Reform Party bill and it is the Reform Party that is being supported or criticized. I would hope that private members' hour would not become politicized in that negative sense.

It may well be that many members of the Reform Party support the bill that has been put forward by the hon. member and it may well be that members from other parties will want to oppose that bill. But I caution against falling by default into a way of debating this bill that replicates the way we debate government legislation.

Having said that, I am here not to speak on behalf of the NDP but to share some of my own thoughts about this. I begin by saying that actually I am quite open minded about this. I do not claim to understand the law in this regard. I have heard conflicting claims.

There are people who say that the law as it stands provides adequate tools for meeting the problem that the hon. member has identified and he is bringing forward a bill in order to address it. I have heard the hon. member say otherwise. I have heard him accused of not paying attention to reality in the things that he has had to say. I do not know.

I do not understand enough about how parole is administered and dealt with in order to say with authority whether I think the hon. member is right or is wrong, or whether he is operating simply out of a political agenda, but I do not think so. I sense from the hon. member and from others that there is a lot of concern, not just on the part of the hon. member but on the part of many Canadians. They are mystified on occasion by how it is that people who are on parole get to be in some of the places that they are and get to do some of the things that they do while they are on parole.

If the police, the courts and the system as it currently stands are able to deal with this or have the powers to deal with this, it still remains an open question as to why it appears to so many Canadians that they do not, and that occasions arise in what seems to be a persistent way. I say seems because I do not have the research at hand, but it certainly seems this way to many Canadians and they feel the justice system is somehow letting them down in terms of public safety.

My attitude toward this bill at this point is that I have not made up my mind yet. That is why we give votable items three hours of debate. It is so that we do not all come in here in the first hour of debate with our minds made up. Some people's minds are made up. That is fair enough. For my part, I intend to review what has been said today, to look at what is said in the second hour and indeed in the third hour.

Having said that, I just want to indicate that if what the hon. member who has put this bill forward is saying is true, I am concerned. I would be concerned when the police identify someone who is on parole in a situation which is in breach of those parole conditions.

If the police are saying that they cannot really do anything about it, that by the time they do whatever it is the law requires of them the person has noticed that the police have noticed them and has already been able to move on, then this is something that should be of concern. It should be of concern to people who are concerned about public safety, particularly if the circumstances of the breach of parole are such that it would cause us to worry about the safety of others.

I share the hon. member's concern about that situation but I am open to be persuaded as to whether or not the law as it currently stands has the ability to deal with this. But even that is not good enough in the sense that I would like to know that if it does have the ability to deal with it, why is there such a widespread perception that it does not use those tools.

It is not enough to say that there is the capacity to do a certain thing. We need to know that the system is designed in such a way as to create the will to use that capacity and to use the tools that are available to the police and to the courts now.

It may be that there is some flaw in the design of the system as it now exists which discourages police from using the powers that are now at their disposal. The member's bill might be an answer to that or it might not be.

There might be some other way of addressing this, which would argue it seems to me for why it might be a good idea to send such a bill to committee. The committee could report either that it is a good idea or that the problem the member has identified and which he is trying to address with this bill is a real problem but the bill itself for a variety of reasons does not do the trick or does not stand the test of scrutiny. There may be other alternatives.

All these things are open to us, and I look forward to listening to the debate in this hour and as it progresses. I hope other hon. members will do the same because we are all going to be called to vote on this at the end of the day, not at the end of this day but metaphorically speaking whenever the three hours is up.

We hope hon. members who speak next will have some light to shed on this. I am certainly hoping that I will be able to learn something on both sides of this debate from members who will speak after me.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
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PC

Peter MacKay

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Peter MacKay (Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, PC)

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to speak on this bill which has been introduced by the Reform member for Langley—Abbotsford and my counterpart as House leader in the Reform Party.

As mentioned by previous speakers, Bill C-211 would amend the Criminal Code as it applies to the arresting and detaining of individuals who breach their conditions of parole or statutory or temporary release. In principle I want to state at the outset that I agree with the bill. In my view it provides our law enforcement officers an additional tool in their fight against crime.

Giving the police increased power always is a contentious issue. I believe in this instance it talks of increased discretion to be exercised on the part of the police in their ability to fight crime and to do their job as peace officers. I fully endorse this.

The changes that are talked of here in section 495(1)(a) of the Criminal Code which would allow peace officers to arrest individuals who breach their conditions of parole or release, in particular, deserve support by this Chamber and its hon. members. I say so with some experience myself.

I listened very carefully to the comments of the hon. member from the Reform Party who had from the sounds of it consulted extensively with a peace officer in his riding. I have spoken personally to a number of police officers as well.

I have spoken to Constable Kevin Scott, Constable Dwayne Rutledge and other police officers from my riding of Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough. I have sensed the frustration that many of our police officers sense when dealing with criminals who have gone through the process.

Criminals have been convicted after due process. They have gone through appeal processes and are serving time as their debt to society and upon being convicted and placed in an institution, having appeared potentially before a parole board, have been granted early release often with good reason. The principle to recall here is the fact that those individuals are paying a debt to society. If released early, essentially they are being given a break, a second chance, and while in society and taking advantage of the break that has been afforded them, they run afoul of conditions which for good reason have been placed upon them.

I listened again with great interest to the comments with respect in particular to pedophiles or individuals who have been told to abstain from alcohol. I would suggest that it is extremely important for police officers, who observe individuals who have these conditions placed upon them, to have the ability to act and to act quickly and decisively.

I listened as well again with great interest to the comments of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Solicitor General. I agree that in its present form the Criminal Code does have provisions for police officers to act in a decisive way to get authorization to place an individual under arrest. The difficulty is in the timing. Officers do not always have the time to get the necessary authorization. They do not always have the time to get to a justice of the peace who will give them the go ahead, or to contact the parole officer involved, particularly in rural parts of the country.

In rural Canada detachments often have one or two officers. Often the justice of the peace is responsible for a vast territory. Human nature being what it is, that justice of the peace may be over at his neighbour's playing cards. He may simply be out in the barn. Unfortunately, justices of the peace are not always on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

This is a very timely debate. Another bill is presently before the House which is the so-called Feeney bill, Bill C-16. It touches on much of the same subject matter that is being discussed today.

I want to discuss another component of the amendment to section 497 of the Criminal Code. It would give the National Parole Board the opportunity to apply to keep a person, who is in breach of his conditions, in custody until the board can issue a warrant of apprehension. This is not an arbitrary detention. We are discussing the rights of an individual who has had the benefit of due process and has been convicted of a criminal offence. There is an important distinction to be made.

I do not favour voting rights for criminals, nor do I favour, in this particular instance, any sort of special treatment or special allotment or second chance. The individual is paying his debt to society. He has been afforded early release and has now run afoul of those conditions.

I generally support the change, with some reservations. Any form of arbitrary detention has to be carefully scrutinized. The key word is arbitrary. The provisions put forward by the hon. member of the Reform Party, I would suggest, are not arbitrary in any way, shape or form. The direction provided in this bill for detention may be vague and may eventually undergo the scrutiny of the charter of rights and freedoms.

I would suggest that this is true of any amendment made to the Criminal Code. That is part of the process of which we partake. It is part of the responsibility which is incumbent upon us in this Chamber. Defence lawyers, I am sure, will be ready to pounce on any detention of their clients which would later be proved unjustified. This is merely a caution that I raise.

Perhaps we could clarify the language in the bill. I am sure the hon. member of the Reform Party would embrace that, as long as it did not change significantly the principle which he is trying to bring forward.

The intent of this bill is positive. I am pleased to say that we in the Conservative Party support it.

I would also embrace another theme touched on by the hon. member, and it is that we should strive toward making the law not only more efficient but simpler. It should be more understandable, not only for police officers who have legal training, but for the public at large. I believe that the public at large is becoming alienated and, to some degree, very disgusted with our criminal justice system.

Overall there are changes that can be made to the Criminal Code. I believe this is the forum and the place for elected officials to partake of that process.

Another reason I support this bill is that it would open a window of opportunity for the National Parole Board to collect additional information on offenders when possible. It would be a responsible thing for them to do.

The offenders who break their terms of parole or conditions of release are once again breaking society's trust in their ability to respect the law. The National Parole Board consents to returning offenders to the mainstream of society on certain conditions. If those conditions are breached, then the board, in turn, must act responsibly and re-evaluate the risk to society posed by the offender. A convicted person forfeits the rights which are afforded to all Canadians.

The bill gives the National Parole Board additional authority to exercise that responsibility, and there is a larger question at play here. The question concerns the effectiveness of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, especially as it relates to the National Parole Board.

The National Parole Board is operating as effectively as possible, but is it doing so to its full ability and is it doing so to the extent where it completely protects Canadians? I suggest there are examples, but I am not going to recite them at this time, that suggest that the National Parole Board has to re-examine its own effectiveness.

The mandate of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act is established by an internal board of investigation on incidents. These incidents should be brought forward and examined at length to see if the National Parole Board is living up to the standard.

I want to mention one further positive element of this bill that requires parliamentary study, the ability to exercise the arrests that these police officers are charged with. I think we have to look most specifically at whether this bill will improve the present law. Will it allow police officers to more effectively carry out the very onerous task that is imposed on them to protect society? If this will further the cause of justice, then it is something we have to work together in a non-partisan way to see carried through to fruition.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
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LIB

Eleni Bakopanos

Liberal

Mrs. Eleni Bakopanos (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Lib.)

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to address this motion.

The hon. member's bill as drafted would do two things. First, it would amend the Criminal Code to make a breach of a condition of parole, statutory release or temporary absence a criminal offence. As a consequence police would have the authority to arrest without warrant an offender who on reasonable grounds is believed to have breached or is about to breach a condition of parole, statutory release or unescorted temporary absence.

This authority already exists in the Criminal Code for breach of probation, as the parliamentary secretary did indicate earlier.

Second, the bill would amend the Criminal Code to authorize a parole board, following an offender's arrest, to either release the offender or apply to a justice to detain the offender in custody until the board could issue a warrant.

Public protection from conditionally released offenders is a matter of serious concern to this government and an area where we have made several legislative and practical improvements.

I would like to clarify some inaccuracies and misconceptions on which the hon. member's bill is founded.

With respect to violations and preventions of breaches of parole, statutory release and unescorted temporary absence conditions, the Corrections and Conditional Release Act already provides ample authority for an offender's conditional release to be suspended by correctional officials. This enables police to arrest the offender and bring him or her into custody.

With regard to an offender on an unescorted temporary absence, a suspension warrant can be issued where the grounds for granting the absence have changed or no longer exist or when new information becomes available that would have altered the original decision.

With respect to an offender on parole or statutory release, a suspension warrant can be issued at any time by the correctional service of Canada and the National Parole Board when it is believed to be necessary and reasonable in order to protect society. Execution of this warrant provides sufficient authority to return the offender to custody until the case can be reviewed by the National Parole Board.

Some may reasonably question why police do not have the same direct authority to arrest conditionally released federal offenders as they do for probationers. I would like to briefly address this question by explaining the key differences between provincial probation and federal conditional release, be it parole, statutory release or an unescorted temporary absence.

Probation is a court disposition which is not granted by a parole board. A breach of probation is a criminal offence because it constitutes a violation of a court order, as was pointed out earlier.

When a breach of probation occurs police have the same authority to arrest a person without a warrant as they would any other person who has committed a criminal offence.

Parole, statutory release and temporary absences, on the other hand, are not court orders, as was pointed out earlier. They are forms of conditional release granted either by the National Parole Board or the correctional service of Canada. All three types of releases are designed to facilitate the reintegration of offenders into the community as law-abiding citizens. We know very well the position of the Reform Party on that.

Conditions of parole, statutory release and temporary absence constitute restrictions placed on the offender that assist the parole supervisor in managing the offender's risk while on conditional release. Because breaches—

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
Permalink
?

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

The time provided for the consideration of Private Members' Business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the Order Paper.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
Permalink

November 6, 1997