April 2, 1998

REF

Jim Pankiw

Reform

Mr. Jim Pankiw (Saskatoon—Humboldt, Ref.)

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak to Bill C-38. This bill will establish the Tuktut Nogait national park in the Northwest Territories. The park will be 16,340 square kilometres and it resides in the Inuvialuit land claims settlement region.

The bill itself is very technical. It outlines in precise geographical terms the boundaries of the new park. However there is more to the bill than lines on a map and a lot of complicated geographical land descriptions. The driving force behind the creation of this national park was the protection of the calving grounds of the bluenose caribou. In fact in the Siglik dialect of Inuvialuktun, “tuktut nogait” means “caribou calves”.

In 1989 the closest community to the new park, Paulatuk, prepared a community conservation plan that recommended the creation of a national park in order to protect the caribou calving grounds. In 1996 an agreement was signed by the Government of Canada, the Northwest Territories and four representative groups of the Inuvialuit. That agreement set out the boundaries of the park as they are set out in this legislation.

The new national park not only protects the caribou but it also protects the fragile tundra landscape in that region. The creation of the park advances the objective of Parks Canada of establishing a national park in every distinctive natural region of our country.

The Tuktut Nogait park is located in region 15, Tundra Hills, as designated by Parks Canada in its national parks systems plan. This particular region is highlighted by a number of spectacular features. One is the smoking hills where smoke billows from cracks in the ash covered ground.

As well, more than 95% of this region is tundra, rock barrens where only the hardiest plants can survive. Wildlife in region 15 is mainly comprised of summer migrants. Muskox, wolves and as many as 500,000 caribou can be found in this region. According to Parks Canada this area is home to one of the rarest birds in Canada, the Eskimo curlew.

Tuktut Nogait comprises only a portion of region 15. However the new national park is an important step in preserving the wildlife and wilderness wonders which I have just described.

We live in a country that is extremely diverse in its landscape, temperatures and wildlife. It is incumbent upon us to act responsibly to ensure that the appreciation of that diversity is available to future generations. The creation of Tuktut Nogait is an important step in protecting that diversity and providing Canadians and our visitors with an opportunity to discover and enjoy the natural beauty of our country.

The Darnley Bay anomaly borders the new park on its western side. The anomaly area which covers 463,847 hectares is thought to contain nickel, copper and platinum group elements. There was some concern for the boundaries of the Tuktut Nogait park since this mineral find, or the proposed area where minerals may be, extends within the park's borders.

The company prospecting the anomaly had been given exploration permits by the department of Indian affairs that mistakenly included portions of the new national park. However in 1994 the company in question relinquished its exploration rights within the national park area so that the establishment of the park could proceed.

Last September the president of Darnley Bay Resources was quoted in the Edmonton Journal . What he said was that he would not seek a change to the park boundary if a major mineral deposit was found on the boundary. The company should be commended for that. It is encouraging to see that businesses in this country are willing to work with the government in preserving and protecting our natural heritage.

I look forward to reviewing this bill more closely in committee so that the exact costs of the establishment and maintenance of the park can be determined. I will be interested to learn how the park will be managed. I will be interested to examine any projected business or financial plans that may be available for the new park. While I am sure we are all in agreement as to the importance of establishing this park, we should also agree that the establishment of this park must be done in a fiscally responsible manner.

At this time I can see no reason for opposing the establishment of this new national park in region 15. It protects and preserves wildlife in an important wilderness area in the Northwest Territories. It preserves a part of Canada's natural heritage for us, for our children and for our grandchildren to enjoy. Surely such an objective can meet with the support of all members of this House.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   National Parks Act
Permalink
REF

Jim Abbott

Reform

Mr. Jim Abbott (Kootenay—Columbia, Ref.)

Madam Speaker, I concur with the speech just given by my colleague on the establishment of this park but I would like to add a couple of caveats.

My major concern is in the management of the parks under Parks Canada, soon to be under the parks agency.

It strikes me that there has not been a sufficient differentiation between parks and preserves. These are English words that I use to designate how I see the difference between the establishment of this park and many others, and where we have developed facilities such as the four mountain parks, especially the Banff park.

It is clear to me that there has to be an acceptance by the top management in Parks Canada or in the parks agency, whenever that comes about, to ensure we do not end up robbing Peter to pay Paul.

I am referring to the fact that the four mountain parks have the ability to generate revenue. The town site of Banff has a gross domestic product in the range of three-quarters of a billion dollars a year. That is not million; that is billion. Three-quarters of a billion dollars a year just from that one town site in the park.

Parks Canada also has the ability and the responsibility to collect fees from people who have concessions or leases within the parks. There is Riding Mountain National Park. There are the contractual arrangements for some of the tour operations in Gros Morne National Park. The park derives revenue that is going into the overall park revenue.

There should be some kind of linkage between the revenue which is being derived from a given area and the services which are being provided to that area. Unfortunately, as I understand the situation, revenues derived from the leaseholders, the tour operators, and other people who are paying into the park even the permits are currently going into the consolidated revenue of the park. In my judgment that represents a serious problem.

As my colleague has just stated, with the establishment of this park we have to make sure that we are doing these things on a very sound fiscal footing. If there is a good reason for the establishment of this park, and I believe there is, we have to be able to cost it out. The people of Canada will then know the administrative costs for the people involved in the environmental sciences, the protection and ranger work, the physical infrastructure required to support them as well as their pay and benefits. If they know that the cost of the entire package is going to be $1 million, then Canadians can either buy into it because it is good value or say that it is too much.

There has to be a complete separation between the leasehold arrangements, the tour operator arrangements and the park fee arrangements that are currently in place. There has to be more focus on those areas where the revenue is derived.

I have a concern in the downsizing that has occurred. The Reform Party has been supportive of making government more accountable and leaner and we take pride in that. However, the concern I had when I was responsible for this portfolio before turning it over to my very capable colleague was that we were robbing Peter to pay Paul in the parks system.

We have an opportunity in the establishment of the parks agency which is also legislation presently before the House to address the issue I just raised. We have to approach it very conscientiously and very seriously.

Madam Speaker, how much time do I have left?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   National Parks Act
Permalink
?

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

The time has expired. It is understood that when the bill is brought back to the House the hon. member will have 35 minutes left.

It being 5.30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of Private Members' Business as listed on today's Order Paper.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   National Parks Act
Permalink

The House resumed from February 12 consideration of the motion that Bill C-208, an act to amend the Access to Information Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.


REF

Bill Gilmour

Reform

Mr. Bill Gilmour (Nanaimo—Alberni, Ref.)

Madam Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to speak on private member's Bill C-208 brought forward by the Liberal member for Brampton West—Mississauga.

Bill C-208 proposes to amend the Access to Information Act to provide sanctions against any person who improperly destroys or falsifies government records in an attempt to deny right of access of information under the act.

The Reform Party supports ensuring that the government is more open and accountable to the public. This bill would do that. It therefore has my support and the support of a great number of my colleagues.

The government has the responsibility to ensure that the affairs of government are open and above board. Canadians have a stake in government affairs and the actions of government must be open to public scrutiny. The wilful destruction of public documents clearly must be prevented. This can only be done with realistic sanctions, which is what this bill does.

Information collected for public purposes and paid for by the taxpayers belongs to the people. Canadians have a right to ensure that public documents are made available to Canadians under the requirements of the Access to Information Act.

Bill C-208 will help to ensure that the guarantee of public access to government documents is protected. Bill C-208 will hold government and public servants accountable for their actions when dealing with public documents. Bill C-208 will also serve as a deterrent to future recurrences of destruction of public documents as we witnessed during the Somalia affair.

Information commissioner John Grace investigated and found that allegations of document tampering or destructions at Transport Canada and national defence “proved to be well founded”.

Investigation also found document destruction by Health Canada in 1989 of the Canadian blood committee audio tapes and transcripts of all preceding meetings of the Canadian blood committee. The destruction was ordered and carried out so that records could not become subject to the Access to Information Act.

The commissioner concluded that the decision to destroy the records was motivated by concern about potential litigation and liability issues associated with tainted blood products. The commissioner found that the then executive director of the Canadian blood committee had custody and control of the records and probably knew there was a pending access to information request for the records.

According to the information commissioner, these “lamentable incidents of wilful actions taken by public officials for the purpose of suppressing information have been a wake-up call”.

The information commissioner has twice recommended: “There should be a specific offence in the access act for acts or omissions intended to thwart the rights set out in law. Moreover, those who commit this offence should be subject to greater sanctions than simply exposure of wrongdoing. At a minimum, the offence should carry a penalty of up to five years in prison. Such a penalty is in line with that imposed in section 122 of the Criminal Code for breach of trust by a public officer. The stakes are too high for simply a slap on the wrist”.

Also according to the information commissioner, the government has improperly destroyed or falsified government documents in many ways. These include altering records before release to an access request or without informing the requester of the changes and without invoking any exemptions under the act, or destroying original records so that the alterations would not be found out.

This bill makes good sense. It is filling a hole that currently exists within the Access to Information Act by allowing or specifying penalties for people who would wilfully destroy or alter public information so anyone having an access request would not get that information. I support this bill and I believe a number of people in the House will also support it.

This is one bill of four I am aware of that deal with the Access to Information Act. Bill C-216, the third hour on which will be in a couple of weeks, also deals with access to information. It deals with commissions and crown corporations such as the CBC and the wheat board that are now exempt from access to information.

The four bills come from all sides of the House dealing with access to information. This shows all parties are interested in having an Access to Information Act that works, that is accessible and covers all areas of government. We will see it happen in the votes over the next days and months in the House.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Access To Information Act
Permalink
LIB

John McKay

Liberal

Mr. John McKay (Scarborough East, Lib.)

Madam Speaker, I am indebted the hon. member for Waterloo—Wellington for his assistance.

I commence by commending my colleague for Brampton West—Mississauga for bringing this important issue to the attention of the House and for her continued commitment to safeguarding the rights of Canadian citizens.

I am also pleased to have an opportunity to speak on Bill C-208. It proposes to add to the Access to Information Act an infraction for destroying documents subject to the act with intent to deny access. Before talking about the specific of the bill I will provide some background for my comments.

Canadians have had the benefit of the federal Access to Information Act since 1983. The federal government can uniquely invoke certain exceptional, specific and limited measures to refuse access to information. It is in these cases, when the government refuses to grant access to information, that the law confers on individuals the right to make a complaint to the access to information commission to review the decision made by the government in the federal court.

The laws of access to information of the federal government are a fundamental right in a democratic system. Under a declaration of the supreme court made earlier this year the primary goal of the legislative measures is concerning the access to information to facilitate democracy.

The laws of access to information that the government possesses in order to facilitate the functioning of the federal government are to render more simple, more receptive and more responsible government. States with repressive laws consequently are missing a tool that allows them to behave responsibly as governments. This is not to say that access to information could not be improved or brought up to date.

The hon. member is trying to improve the act with the amendment proposed in the legislation. One can argue that there is a gap in the protection currently offered by the act since it does not contain a penalty for the deliberate alteration or destruction of a record. The act does contain a penalty but it is a penalty for obstructing the work of the information commissioner.

The act also authorizes the commissioner to disclose to the Attorney General of Canada information relating to the commission of an offence against any law of Canada by any officer or employee of a federal government institution.

The bill would add an offence for actions that one can legitimately see as actions that intend to defeat the purpose of the act.

For that reason I agree with the hon. member that the Access to Information Act should include a penalty for deliberately destroying documents subject to the act. I believe that such action is unacceptable and therefore should be punished. For this reason I support the general goal of Bill C-208. I do not, however, support the specifics of the bill.

We could maintain that article 126 of the Criminal Code applies to a situation where a person voluntarily destroys a document with the goal to revoke access to information under the Access to Information Act.

Under article 126 of the Criminal Code whoever without legitimate excuse contravenes the federal law by voluntarily accomplishing is guilty of a criminal act and is liable for imprisonment for a maximum of two years.

The severity of the penalty seen in article 126 can bring us to ask if we can foresee the penalty under the access to information law in the case where voluntary destruction of documents is applied to.

We envision a penalty specific that would not be as severe as that in article 126 for the act of this crime and to receive imprisonment for a maximum of two years.

I am of the opinion that the penalty as described in the Criminal Code is probably far too severe. Consequently, if we add a penalty specific to the access to information law it should be less severe than the penalty currently listed in article 126.

What is proposed in Bill C-208? It is to create an indictable offence with a maximum penalty of five years in prison, which is heavier than the penalty provided for in section 126. For this reason I cannot support the bill.

I understand the hon. member wants to make the point that the destruction or alteration of the document is serious. We all agree to this. It should also be put into perspective. In my view a maximum of five years is far too heavy a penalty for destroying documents.

This penalty would be more severely punished than the offence of assault causing bodily harm, a hybrid offence with a maximum penalty of 18 months when prosecuted under summary conviction. Destroying documents, while undoubtedly serious, cannot be compared to assault causing bodily harm.

I believe the need to create an offence for the deliberate destruction of records in order to thwart the Access to Information Act is an issue that should be considered within the context of the reform of this act and should be examined by the House.

I believe that a case can be made that an addition to such an offence would strengthen the principles of openness and accountability inherent in the access to information legislation.

I also believe that particular attention should be paid to determining the appropriate sentence to be attached to the offence, which should be proportional to penalties provided for comparable offences.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Access To Information Act
Permalink
BQ

Paul Mercier

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Paul Mercier (Terrebonne—Blainville, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, it is with special interest that I rise today to speak to Bill C-208, an act to amend the Access to Information Act.

This bill provides more severe sanctions against any person who improperly destroys or falsifies government records in an attempt to deny right of access to information under the Access to Information Act.

The 1980 Access to Information Act does not provide sanctions severe enough for this type of offence. Section 67 currently provides the following:

(1) No person shall obstruct the Information Commissioner or any person acting on behalf or under the direction of the Commissioner in the performance of the Commissioner's duties and functions under this Act.

(2) Every person who contravenes this section is guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars.

Bill C-208 makes it an indictable offence to destroy, falsify or not keep required records. The punishment for such an offence would be imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years or a fine not exceeding $10,000 or both.

This bill is timely since people from every walk of life are becoming increasingly interested in public life, and this is good. Whether they are artists, professionals, intellectuals or labourers, they all want to know how their interests are being taken care of. It is critical to understand that citizens want to take an active part in the development of government policies.

However, this legitimate demand requires that the policy development process be accessible. Therefore the process to disseminate government information must be effective and, above all, transparent.

Does the current act meet these expectations? Do information policies allow every citizen to really know how the government works?

According to the member for Brampton, who introduced this bill, the answer is no. According to the member, we must review the Access to Information Act to punish more severely any person who improperly destroys or falsifies official records.

I totally agree with the member. Public servants who commit such destructive acts must be punished more severely. As lawmakers, we must protect the right of our fellow citizens to be adequately informed of their government's actions. And I am not the only one who thinks so. On several occasions, the Information Commissioner criticized the lack of teeth in the Access to Information Act.

In his 1995-96 report, he condemned the three following cases.

First, at Transport Canada, a senior official directed his assistants to destroy all copies of an audit report concerning a refurbishing project which he knew was the subject of an access to information request.

Second, at the Department of National Defence, a reporter claiming that certain documents had been falsified before being released to him requested an investigation, which showed that the allegations were founded.

Third, there was a similar case at Health Canada. Testimony presented before the Krever Commission revealed that recordings of meetings of the Canadian committee were fraudulently destroyed in the late 1980s.

In his 1996-1997 report, the commissioner reaffirms his position that the law as it stands now does not provide for effective enforcement mechanisms.

On the specific issue of the tainted blood scandal, the commissioner once again sent a message to the lawmakers, saying “These lamentable incidents of wilful actions taken by public officials for the purpose of suppressing information have been a wake-up call. As recommended in last year's annual report, there should be a specific offence in the access act for acts or omissions intended to thwart the rights set out in the law. At a minimum, the offence should carry a penalty of up to five years in prison”.

In his last two reports, the commissioner warned us that the legislation was not effective. In 1996, he said and I quote “After 13 years of operation of this Act, it is unfortunate to have to report several very disturbing manoeuvres to hinder the right of access to government documents, including destruction and falsification”.

In 1997, for the second time in two years, the commissioner stated “These lamentable incidents of wilful actions taken by public officials for the purpose of suppressing information have been a wake-up call. As recommended in last year's annual report, there should be a specific offence in the access act for acts or omissions intended to thwart the rights set out in the law. At a minimum, the offence should carry a penalty of up to five years in prison”.

It is obvious that we need to legislate according to the recommendations made by the commissioner. One of my colleagues, the hon. member for Berthier—Montcalm, has introduced Bill C-286. He too urges parliamentarians to solve the problems related to the enforcement of the Access to Information Act.

However, his bill differs from the one now before the House, because it deals with various aspects of the destruction of documents. The bill before the House does not seem to deal with that particular issue.

As my colleague from Laval Centre said, when we address the issue of the destruction and falsification of documents, we cannot disregard some considerations specific to our public administration. Documents requested under access to information are rarely destroyed by the individual who would really benefit from their disappearance. Very often—and the bill must have provision for this—it is senior officials or senior public servants who have ordered this to be done, although they have not done it themselves.

That is why the hon. member for Berthier—Montcalm is introducing Bill C-268, which forbids any employer in a position of authority from taking reprisals against anyone refusing to destroy or falsify a record when asked to do so. This shortcoming in the present legislation would be remedied by the bill of my hon. colleague for Berthier—Montcalm.

There must be severe penalties for those who use their authority to order destruction of a document and who threaten someone who refuses to go along with this. Unfortunately, Bill C-286 makes no mention of this.

In closing, it must be recognized that the bill attempts—albeit only partially—to solve a very significant problem in our information policy. It is therefore our party's duty to support it.

The Access to Information Act does, however, deserve to be reformed far more extensively. I am therefore inviting you to discuss Bill C-286, which addresses access to Privy Council confidences, with my colleague soon.

In conclusion, although this bill is praiseworthy, I must draw attention to some of its shortcomings. One of these is that it calls upon parliamentarians to resolve only some of the problems. It must therefore be made clear that this reform remains incomplete in many ways.

For example, we need to be aware that documents, and I repeat myself here, are rarely destroyed by the very person for whom their destruction would be advantageous. The Access to Information Act must, therefore, prohibit any reprisal, or threat of reprisal by an employer or a person in a position of authority.

The complete bill, in conjunction with Bill C-286, should therefore provide for three kinds of offence: destroying or falsifying documents; ordering the destruction or falsification of documents; retaliating against a person who refuses to destroy or falsify documents.

We therefore believe the intent of Bill C-208 to be commendable and that is why we are supporting it. Much more extensive amendments are in order, however. That is why we hope to have the opportunity at some point to discuss Bill C-286, which will be a useful adjunct to the bill before us today.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Access To Information Act
Permalink
REF

Ken Epp

Reform

Mr. Ken Epp (Elk Island, Ref.)

Mr. Speaker, I will add a few points to this important debate. We are talking about the destruction of evidence of what government officials and bureaucrats do. It seems the whole concept is one of accountability of which I am strongly in favour.

When I was first elected in 1993 I inherited all of the office equipment of my predecessor and the motor on the shredder was burned out. Everything in the office was shredded. Apparently they had bags and bags of shredded paper and a burned out motor on the shredder when it was all done.

I have a couple of suggestions for government with respect to the handling of confidential information. There is a bit of a misconception here. I believe there are justifiable occasions when in order to protect the rights of individuals, or in the case of MPs those of a constituent, documents need to be destroyed so they cannot be used against the individuals. That I think is important.

When it comes to government accountability and bureaucracy I think just the opposite is true. There are two points that I think are very important. One is that accountability comes from knowing that the document will some day be made public.

Recently we had a talk with, for example, the Canadian Wheat Board. It is not subject to the Access to Information Act so it can do whatever it wants. Other than what it chooses to report in its reports, the rest is never available to the public and in particular to farmers who have the greatest interest in the Canadian Wheat Board.

Even though one can argue that there is a commercial value to secrecy at a certain stage, why can we not after five years, or even after ten years, say that everything has to be opened up? At that stage people would know what decisions were made on their behalf five years before.

This would very greatly affect the decisions being made by bureaucrats, by officials. They might say they can do something and no one will ever find out and it does not matter. However, if they know that some years down the road someone will find out, it may affect their decision and cause them to do what is right instead of what may not be right.

The second part of what we are talking about today is the destruction of documents that could be called upon later. I would like to add another feature. Anybody who is ordered by a superior to shred documents or otherwise destroy them should have the right to obtain the order in writing and to retain that document for his or her own protection for the future so that nobody can pass the buck afterward and say “I was simply following orders”, and then the person giving the orders saying “No, I never gave that order”.

In that way an individual, someone lower down in the hierarchy who did not make the decision, would still have protection. Thereby the person who actually gave the order would be held responsible because the document would be held in the safety of the person receiving the order who would be able to produce it if the matter became an issue later.

In general I would like to speak in favour of the bill. It is an important measure to provide accountability and to make sure things are done correctly on behalf of taxpayers and voters. The Canadian people would have confidence in their government because information would be available to them when they need it in order to provide the facts. This measure would provide for the safety of materials, preventing their destruction, so that evidence could be brought forward if needed.

In principle I support the bill and I also urge other members to do so.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Access To Information Act
Permalink
?

The Deputy Speaker

Is the House ready for the question?

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Access To Information Act
Permalink
?

Some hon. members

Question.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Access To Information Act
Permalink
?

The Deputy Speaker

Pursuant to order made earlier today, all questions on the motion are deemed to have been put and a recorded division deemed demanded and deferred until Tuesday, April 21, 1998, at expiry of the time provided for Government Orders.

Is there unanimous consent to call it 6.30 p.m.?

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Access To Information Act
Permalink
?

Some hon. members

Agreed.

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

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Access To Information Act
Permalink
REF

Jack Ramsay

Reform

Mr. Jack Ramsay (Crowfoot, Ref.)

Mr. Speaker, on December 5, 1997, in the absence of the Minister of Justice, I asked her parliamentary secretary when the Liberal government would limit conditional sentencing to non-violent offenders. The parliamentary secretary refused to answer the question.

As of today my particular question on conditional sentencing has been outstanding for 45 sitting days of the House.

However, prior and subsequent questions asked repeatedly by myself and my colleagues have gone unanswered since the inception of Bill C-41, the vehicle of conditional sentencing, in June 1995.

For almost three years now we have asked the former and current justice ministers to amend the Criminal Code to restrict the use of conditional sentencing to non-violent offenders. We have ample reasons to be concerned about the releasing of violent offenders including convicted rapists onto our streets. These reasons include the safety of our sons and daughters, our spouses and our brothers and sisters.

Sex offenders have the highest rate of re-offending and therefore pose an enormous risk to the lives and safety of our families. Yet despite our repeated requests, the justice minister refuses to limit conditional sentencing. As a result, rapists and other violent offenders are walking free.

We have numerous examples to prove this fact. However, as my time is limited, I will use the most recent case which has raised the ire of Canadians across the country.

On January 26 of this year, a Quebec court judge granted 24-year old Patrick Lucien and 23-year old Evans Shannon conditional sentencing for sexual assault. Judge Monique Dubreuil granted these lenient sentences, although the crown recommended prison sentences of five and four years respectively.

A community sentence is totally inappropriate and unacceptable for these two men who took turns raping their 18-year old victim while the other held her down.

When questioned about these two cases, the justice minister provided her typical answer. She was satisfied to leave this and similar controversies to the courts.

Well the justice minister may be satisfied with this abhorrent use of conditional sentencing, but the Reform Party of Canada—

Topic:   Adjournment Proceedings
Subtopic:   Access To Information Act
Permalink
?

The Deputy Speaker

Order, please. The hon. member may not have been in the House the other day when there was an intervention by the Deputy Chairman of Committees of the Whole House.

The Chair is very concerned that the precedents of this House require that members be judicious in their comments in respect of the bench and members of the judiciary in this country. I must say that I take exception to the hon. member naming the judge in this case and referring specifically to this judgement.

If the hon. member wishes to refer to the case in general, the Chair has no objection to that. It is a perfectly fair comment. However, the authorities of this House, including citations in Beauchesne's, which I could find for the hon. member to assist him, indicate very strongly that members ought not to be naming members of the courts in connection with debates in this Chamber and then speaking about them in terms that are less than flattering.

I invite the hon. member to comply with the rules in that regard and avoid reference to the judge in this or in any other case, if he is going to make adverse comments in respect of that person because I believe it is inappropriate for that to be done.

The hon. member may continue his remarks.

Topic:   Adjournment Proceedings
Subtopic:   Access To Information Act
Permalink
REF

Jack Ramsay

Reform

Mr. Jack Ramsay

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I will be guided by the judgment of the Chair on this matter.

I am not sure where I ended, but I will continue my remarks.

On January 26 of this year a Quebec court granted 24-year old Patrick Lucien and 23-year old Evans Shannon conditional sentencing for sexual assault. The judge in that particular case granted these lenient sentences although the crown had recommended prison sentences of five and four years.

I submit that a community sentence under conditional sentencing is inappropriate in this case. It is unacceptable for these two men who took turns raping their 18-year old victim while each one held the victim down.

When questioned about these two cases, the justice minister provided a typical response that we have heard in our request that an amendment to C-41 be made to limit conditional sentencing to non-violent offences. The minister has provided the answer, which is on the record, that she is satisfied to leave this and similar controversies to the court.

The justice minister, as I stated earlier, may be satisfied with this abhorrent use of conditional sentencing but the Reform Party and I believe thousands if not millions of Canadians are not satisfied with this. We want the Criminal Code amended and we are tired of waiting, as we are tired of waiting for the minister's answer to the question I asked on December 5.

Since the parliamentary secretary is present I repeat my question to the government. Will it consider an amendment to conditional sentencing that will deny the courts the use of that particular section in cases of convicted violent offenders, including rapists?

Topic:   Adjournment Proceedings
Subtopic:   Access To Information Act
Permalink
LIB

Eleni Bakopanos

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, in December, justice ministers met to discuss conditional sentencing issues. More specifically, they looked at the need for an amendment in order to limit conditional sentences to non-violent criminals.

All jurisdictions agreed that Canada's appeal courts should be allowed to issue the necessary guidelines to sentencing judges.

This is taking place in all appeal courts in the country.

At the appellate level, courts have expressed the view that conditional sentences are generally inappropriate for sexual offences unless exceptional circumstances are present.

We will continue, as the minister has said, to monitor in close consultation with the provinces and territories as requested by the territories and the provinces, the use of conditional sentences. There will always be sentencing decisions that create controversy, and the Reform members are great creators of controversy in this House by bringing up the exceptions to the rule every single time, that seem on their face to be inappropriate. That is why we have courts of appeal.

It is important for hon. members to keep matters in perspective. There have been well over 18,000 conditional sentence orders imposed in Canada since September 1996. As an article published in the Toronto Star in March 1988 noted the majority of the more than 18,000 conditional sentences have been free of controversy. The vast majority of conditional sentence cases are well-reasoned appropriate dispositions.

We continue to be vigilant. We are working with provincial and territorial correctional experts and prosecutors to collect data on the use of conditional sentencing, as was requested by all territories and provinces.

The evidence so far is clear. Most conditional sentences have been imposed for non-violent offences involving property, driving, drugs, administration of justice and other non-violent offences under the Criminal Code.

We do not make laws in this country for the exceptions. We make them in order to cover a wide range of offences.

I also wish to advise hon. members that there is an undertaking on the part of provincial and territorial governments to continue working together.

I want to advise in addition that the Minister of Justice is considering introducing possible amendments to streamline the enforcement of conditional sentences where an allegation of breach has been made.

Topic:   Adjournment Proceedings
Subtopic:   Access To Information Act
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The Deputy Speaker

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 6.08 p.m.)

Topic:   Adjournment Proceedings
Subtopic:   Access To Information Act
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April 2, 1998