May 11, 2000

LIB

Don Boudria

Liberal

Hon. Don Boudria (Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, this is always the best question that is asked every Thursday. I will try to give the best answer, although some of my colleagues gave such excellent answers today they would perhaps be hard to surpass.

In any case, we will continue today with Bill C-18, the criminal code amendments with regard to impaired driving. If by any chance this is completed we could start with Bill C-33, but I understand there probably would not be any more than one or two speakers on that today.

In any event, tomorrow we will do second reading of Bill S-10, the DNA, and Bill S-3 respecting international tax conventions. Should those bills be completed tomorrow before the end of the day, I would not propose to call any other business.

On Monday, we would hope to deal with report stage and, if possible, third reading of Bill C-26, the airlines bill. There are ongoing consultations to that effect. If we complete all of this we would then continue with Bill C-33 or in any case get started on Bill C-33 if it was not begun earlier. Bill C-33 is the legislation concerning species at risk.

On Tuesday, we will debate Bill C-25, the income tax legislation. This is the bill that is presently stuck at second reading as a result of two reasoned amendments.

On Wednesday, we would propose to complete any of the listed bills we have not completed. I wish to designate Thursday, May 18, as an allotted day.

While I am at it, because that leaves only one additional day before the parliamentary break, it would be my intention, if possible, to call Bill C-12, the amendments to the Canada Labour Code, at report stage and third reading on Friday of next week. That would complete the sequence until the break.

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

Chuck Strahl

Reform

Mr. Chuck Strahl

Mr. Speaker, could the government House leader tell us if a bill regarding the grain transportation issue which was dealt with today in question period is soon to be tabled in the House? I understand that the government would like it passed before the start of the next crop year, and it is important for us to see the details of that bill so we can start the debate.

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

Don Boudria

Liberal

Hon. Don Boudria

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for raising this issue, which is obviously of great importance not only for us, but for the agricultural community, particularly in western Canada.

I hope to introduce this bill at the very earliest opportunity. I am hoping to do so before we adjourn next week. I understand that the drafting will probably not be complete. I intend to introduce it as soon as we return and give it the maximum time that is available to all of us.

It could be introduced, with consent, perhaps as early as the Tuesday after we return. That would require being later in the day, because of different instruments of government. I would propose to seek that consent should the bill be ready by then. If not, the latest date for the introduction, as proposed, would be on the Wednesday, but again I will do my best to have it available as early as Tuesday.

As a result, in part, of representations from members of the House, together with colleagues, we arranged that the policy at least would be announced yesterday so that members could consult their constituents on this very important issue.

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

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-18, an act to amend the criminal code (impaired driving causing death and other matters), be read the second time and referred to a committee.


BQ

Paul Crête

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Paul Crête (Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, before Oral Question Period, I had th opportunity to speak to Bill C-18 and explain the Bloc Quebecois' position and its opposition to Bill C-18, and to explain why we are going to vote against the bill.

The Bloc Quebecois recognizes that impaired driving causing death is a very serious offence indeed. We are all in agreement on this because for the victim the consequences are final and it causes a lot of trouble, a lot of pain to the family. Everybody agrees on that.

However, we think that giving a life sentence to the driver who caused this person to die by operating his vehicle while impaired would be disproportionate as compared to other sentences under the criminal code, and it would not solve the problem.

The Bloc Quebecois believes there are other practical, concrete solutions that should be implemented such as an ignition interlock with a breath alcohol analyzer, a system I will be pleased to explain later on, if I have the time.

The point I want to make is that the bill before us was introduced by the government much more out of political expediency than to meet a need in the justice system. Everyone is aware of the fact that there is in Canada a very strong shift to the right spearheaded mainly by the Canadian Alliance calling for tougher, harsher laws, especially with respect to the criminal code, without necessarily any factual basis.

We saw it with young offenders. The situation is very clear, very obvious. We in Quebec have developed a preventive approach to bring young offenders back on the right track, to help them learn again how to live in society and respect the legal framework of our society, and it works.

However, the rest of Canada really let the American approach influence them. They want longer prison terms. They want young men and women to be harshly punished when they make a mistake. They often forget that by doing so, these offenders end up in prison and that prisons are often schools for crime. I think that the example of the young offenders also applies to Bill C-18 and to the issue of impaired driving causing death.

Instead of adopting this kind of punitive approach, the Bloc Quebecois would rather increase the deterrent effect through a device known as an alcohol-ignition interlock device. It is simply an ignition locking system that by including a clause to that effect in the criminal code, this type of offender could be compelled to have in his car.

All sorts of uses could be made of this device. Why not, for example—and this is my own personal opinion—install this type of device in every single car?

Seat belts have already been made compulsory. At first, a lot of people were against it, but today we all buckle up because we know that it is safer and that, should we be involved in an accident, our injuries would be less serious. Such measures could therefore be considered. However, if the government is not prepared to go that far, it could at least apply such measures to impaired drivers who are repeat offenders, so as to prevent them from taking the wheel and causing death, an offence for which, if the government had its way, they would receive a life sentence.

We can see the difference. The bill seeks to punish after the fact without doing anything to remedy the situation, by preventing further deaths, whereas the Bloc Quebecois wants to deal with the root of the problem to ensure there are as few of these types of situations as possible.

I think the Bloc Quebecois has a very responsible attitude on this issue. It is a well thought out attitude that is advocated by many stakeholders. The prevention system I am talking about was used in the past in Alberta and Quebec. Current programs are satisfactory, produce significant results and help prevent these types of situations.

In conclusion, I will simply say that, as far as the Bloc Quebecois is concerned, Bill C-18 is a bad piece of legislation. It does not get to the root of the problem, and it will create more problems than it solves. It also introduces a double standard in our criminal code, which we find unacceptable.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Criminal Code
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BQ

René Canuel

Bloc Québécois

Mr. René Canuel (Matapédia—Matane, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, I listened to my colleague for Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques. He recommended some intelligent measures which should be implemented as quickly as possible. I call that prevention.

Putting someone in prison and cancelling his driver's licence for years, that is obviously something. Sometimes we may have to do it but nobody can convince me that in the year 2000 we cannot do better than that.

I see young people who are generally more serious than people who are 40 or 45 years old. For many years now, when they go to a tavern for a few drinks, they get someone to drive them home. However, some might forget and let themselves be led by others.

Last week I heard that many accidents happen in Quebec involving bikers. We must also think about this. What means should we take? Should we send someone to prison? Should we suspend his driver's licence for 5, 10 or 20 years? I do not think this is the solution. My colleague told us about an ignition interlock system which prevents the car from starting. When we pass a bill what do we want? We want two things: to protect society and to protect the guy who, after a few drinks, can become a criminal under the code. We should think twice.

I would ask my colleague to explain further what this system is. Should we adopt it as quickly as possible? Has this system been adopted in other countries?

I commend my colleague for his speech and I urge the government to think, to listen and to pay close attention to what my colleague has to say.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Criminal Code
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BQ

Paul Crête

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Paul Crête

Mr. Speaker, before going into the details of the ignition interlock system with breathalyzer, I would remind the House that, indeed, as the member said, the percentage of people sentenced to jail upon conviction by the courts for impaired driving decreased from 22% to 19% between 1994-95 and 1997-98. Consequently, it is not urgently required to increase penalties. Instead, we should try to eliminate the source of the problem.

What is the Bloc proposal, the ignition interlock system with breathalyzer? It is simply ignition interlock system that, in specific circumstances provided for in the code and which I will mention, would ensure an impaired driver is not be able to start his vehicle.

Furthermore, the criminal code should be amended to allow judges to order an offender to install an ignition interlock system with breathalyzer in his vehicle, as a condition of probation or in exchange of the reduction of a much longer period of prohibition from driving.

This would be a real prevention measure. It would even promote behavioural changes, because the offender would have the opportunity to change his attitude. It would ensure that there are less and less of this type of accidents.

What is this system? It is a little breathalyzer installed in the vehicle, which requires the driver to provide a breath sample showing a level of alcohol that is nil or almost nil in order to be able to start it. The current technology of ignition interlock systems is very reliable, even in extreme temperature conditions. This system has been validated, it is working very well and it is in use in Quebec and in Alberta.

Ignition interlock systems with breathalyzer are normally installed after a period of suspension of the driver's licence, as a condition for returning the licence to the offender. This way, we attack the problem at its very root. We go to the repeat offender and make sure there will be no further offences and further deaths; that is a much more progressive approach than convicting the offender once someone has been killed. It is much more progressive to prevent loss of life.

Evaluations made over the last 10 years have shown time after time that ignition interlock systems are effective. As I said earlier, Alberta and Quebec now have satisfactory programs for the installation of such systems.

The criminal code would allow all Canadians to benefit from the increased security provided by this technology. It could be done in two different ways. The judges could have the power to order an offender to install an ignition interlock system as a condition for his release under mandatory supervision, or the convicted offenders could be prompted to install an ignition interlock with breathalyser in exchange for a reduced period of driving prohibition.

This would require the prohibition period to be extended considerably so that, after it has been reduced in exchange for the installation of the system, it would still be as long as the suspension of licence by the province.

We could encourage the provinces to make the installation of ignition interlocks a mandatory condition for the reinstatement of driver's licences, at least for repeat offenders and first time offenders.

If, instead of telling people who have lost a family member in a car accident that they will be vindicated because the person responsible for the accident will get life imprisonment, we told them that if this system had been in place, nobody would have been killed in their family, which of the two alternatives do you think people would choose?

The government should be open to this suggestion of the Bloc Quebecois. It is a positive suggestion, and I think the federal government should start bucking the right wing trend that currently inspires every criminal code amendment.

It seems that the Minister of Justice is much more concerned with her own re-election, because this right wing trend is quite strong in her area. But modern technology gives us the means to prevent these accidents.

I hope the government will pay attention to our suggestion.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Criminal Code
Permalink
BQ

Jocelyne Girard-Bujold

Bloc Québécois

Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold (Jonquière, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, I listened very carefully to what the member for Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques had to say.

Could he tell us whether there are any other preventive measures—in addition to the one that Quebec and another province in Canada have found effective—that would prevent those who might drive while impaired from paying the extreme penalty contained in this bill introduced by the Minister of Justice?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Criminal Code
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BQ

Paul Crête

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Paul Crête

Mr. Speaker, I think there are two kinds of solutions.

The first involves preventive measures. We must ensure that impaired driving is reduced to the absolute minimum in Canada, that there are fewer such situations. Provincial and federal legislation is needed. There could be advertising campaigns so that fewer and fewer people drive while impaired.

There could be theme campaigns, such as the RIDE program, which reduces the number of people who drive during the holiday season while impaired. These are preventive measures which could be continued and the member for Jonquière's question makes that assumption.

There is another approach, which is not preventive, but which I think should be considered. We know that the current provisions are not used to the full. I will give an example.

The heaviest sentence handed out by the courts for impaired driving causing death is 10 years, while the courts, which are the best placed to analyse the characteristics of each offender, have not exhausted the resources of the criminal code, which now sets the maximum sentence for impaired driving causing death at 14 years.

There is already some play. Judges are already handing out lighter sentences than the criminal code allows for. This would perhaps be one avenue to consider. Judges would send the message to the public that what is in the code is what will now be meted out, rather than amending the code when the full extent of what is available is not being used right now.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Criminal Code
Permalink
BQ

Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral

Bloc Québécois

Mrs. Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral (Laval Centre, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, the bill before the House today, Bill C-18, is aimed, once again, at amending the criminal code.

A great many changes are made to the criminal code here in this House, particularly where impaired driving causing death is concerned. This is, of course, a serious offence. Hon. members will understand that, even if we are strongly opposed to this bill, our position is not intended to convey the idea that it is a minor event if a person kills another because he or she had too much to drink before driving.

Toward the end of 1999, Pierre Gravel, a respected editorial writer for La Presse— there is such a thing as a respected editorial writer—wrote as follows:

The Bloc Quebecois is often faulted for carrying out systematic obstruction in Ottawa, solely for the purpose of demonstrating that the federal system is not workable.

I am tempted to add “solely for the purpose of demonstrating that the federal system refuses to be improved by taking the views of the opposition into consideration”.

Mr. Gravel continues:

This is not, however, an accusation that can be made of its interaction in the debate on the sanctions to be imposed on impaired drivers.

This is probably the most important point in his editorial:

It is, on the contrary, in this connection that its hardline attitude has contributed greatly to moderating the excessive zeal of the zero tolerance zealots.

Those zero tolerance zealots are to my right here in this House, although their intolerance has, regrettably, crossed the floor of this chamber.

Continuing to quote from Mr. Gravel:

And, at the same time, to take over from any discussion of this matter from a reasonable point of view, in which the sanctions connected to these offences will not be disproportionate to crimes as serious—

These crimes could even be worse, in some instances.

—for which the offenders get much lighter penalties.

Bill C-18 is back in the House today and it is rather disturbing to see the impressive silence from the government side, from the right wing parties. Could it be that they have nothing left to say to refute our arguments? That would already be a sign of wisdom, but the greatest wisdom would be to withdraw this bill.

Could it be that they are more concerned about an election? One of the parties in this House is holding its convention as of today and I can understand why its members are not participating in the debate.

The alliance also has a convention of course, but it is held around Quebec's national holiday, so there is still time for them. The party opposite held its convention just a few weeks ago. So, why are they silent?

I believe they are keeping quiet because they decided that this bill would be passed with a very large majority, since it is clear that the Bloc Quebecois will be the only party to oppose it.

In the same article, which was written about a year ago, on June 3, Pierre Gravel added this:

But when the government, as is currently the case, faces an ultraconservative and populist opposition such as the Reform Party—

At that time, they were still called the Reform Party.

—which always advocates the harshest possible sentences to ensure law and order, there is inevitably a risk of having very radical solutions that do not always take into account the whole reality.

Mr. Speaker, you are well aware that radicalism and respect rarely go together. There are some very recent examples in this House.

Pierre Gravel went on to say:

The greatest merit of these measures is to calm a population obsessed by a desire for vengeance that is constantly exacerbated by a large number of demagogues. When, in addition to that, the party in office—

That was true one year ago. Members can imagine now.

When, moreover, the party in power feels an urgent need to increase its popularity with a group of people who support the intractable attitude of the opposition, we end up with an unacceptable bill such as the one that earned the absolute and, in this case, totally justified opposition of the Bloc Quebecois.

A year later, Mr. Gravel will be able to take his editorial and adapt it to today's reality and see, increasingly, that this government is making a name for itself with its opportunism and the effect of this will be dealing this way with people, who are honest, but who may have made an error in judgement. Who has not?

Who can rise and say “I have never and will never make an error in judgment”. This is the way they will treat an honest citizen who has made an error in judgment, who has done something wrong, namely starting his car and driving off risking or possibly causing the death of someone.

I would like to ask a question. Could anyone of us making this error in judgment live serenely after making the mistake of driving under the influence of alcohol and causing injury or even death? I know no one here or where I come from or among the majority of the population who would say “Oh, that is nothing”.

That is not true. Unlike habitual criminals who are part of a culture where crime is part of their daily life, and is in the end of no importance, most people facing a criminal charge for driving under the influence of alcohol and causing the death are people who repent. Obviously, repenting is the first step toward wisdom.

My colleague from Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques talked of the importance of prevention. I was young once. I remember that, at the tender age when I was fascinated by guys who drove cars, I went for a ride on July 14; I met my husband on that same day. I went for a ride with young people who were going to celebrate Bastille Day. In the early 1960s, Quebec was awakening and wine flowed freely as we celebrated France's national day.

When it was time to go home, I looked at the driver and I said: “My God, I will never get into this car”. I thought that my life was still worth something. I accepted something that could have been worse; I agreed to leave with a nice young man whom I had met on the dance floor and who appeared to be serious. I had noticed that he had not drunk too much, maybe a glass and a half of wine. In fact, he brought me back home safely and, three years later, I agreed to become his partner for life.

Prevention makes people more aware of the risks associated with some behaviours. In Quebec, prevention is valued and is now part of our life.

There is another bill before this House that has been under discussion for a long time and that concerns young offenders. I do not need to, once again, go over the statistics from Quebec, which are self-explanatory. They show that crimes by young offenders is dropping and that prevention and rehabilitation are effective.

For this reason, instead of deciding to send young delinquents to prison or to send reckless drivers guilty of injuring or killing someone to prison for life, we know that prevention works. This method helps make them more responsible people.

In fact, this debate should have been an opportunity to have an adult and mature discussion between people from all over Canada and Quebec on the subject of what it means to be responsible citizens.

This is what we should be reflecting on. The House of Commons is an extraordinary forum to reflect on the notion of responsibility. Many members of the House are parents and have done their best to raise their children. I believe not too many parents would say “My kids are model and responsible citizens who are successful and fulfil all the duties that are entrusted to them because I beat them regularly and locked them up in their room”.

This is precisely what the government wants to do with Bill C-18. We believe that prevention is the way to go and that we must invest some money in schools. We know that young people start smoking around the age of 8 or 9 and that some start drinking at a fairly young age.

Hence the need for education programs, with people who are knowledgeable and able to transmit values. We need education programs focussing on parents in order for them to promote a whole series of acceptable behaviours.

We know that there is nothing wrong with having a drink with friends to mark a happy event or just because it is Friday and the weather is nice. On the contrary, I believe it is a sign of socialization, and God knows that we need this. However, the situation turns sour when one takes one, two or three drinks, then up to eight drinks, finally getting to the bottom of the bottle. I am obviously referring to wine. If it is scotch, the situation is different, because it does not take as much.

There is another real problem I would like to address. I do not know if my colleagues have raised it. Among those who drive under the influence and cause serious accidents, we find the honest citizen implicated in an incident. He did not want it to happen and there was no premeditation on his part.

There is another group of citizens comprised of all the individuals plagued by a very serious illness which is called alcoholism. At one time or another, every one of us has known a fine person who, sadly, had a serious alcohol dependency.

It is hard enough to get rid of a cold or the flu, but getting rid of an alcohol problem is nothing like getting rid of the flu. It is an illness of the soul, which caused awful physical dependence. We must help those affected, because they need both psychological and medical support. They must be helped to make their decision because this illness can be cured when there is no other choice.

Bill C-18 says “Here is the solution, we open the door, you go in, we close the door and that is that. You will come out feet first”. That is how we would treat honest citizens who were unlucky, or sick.

Once again, and I imagine that the chair of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, who is a reasonable man, a sensible man, will back my request that the government withdraw Bill C-18.

It will do nothing to improve the situation on highways. It will simply hurt some citizens more without lessening the pain of families who lose a loved one. That is clear. What is the purpose then?

Again, as I have said, the purpose is to seek the votes of those who, for one reason or another, tend to think that repression works and that this is the way to go.

When a state has reached the stage of using repression as a standard administrative tool, it is not far removed from having something in common with a dictatorship. I trust that Canada is very far from being a dictatorship. I certainly hope so.

I would like to make it perfectly clear to the members here in the House and those watching us at home that behaviour is never modified by repression. Changes are brought about through education, prevention, and a serious investment by professionals who are capable of helping people in difficulty.

I am going to read something that is absolutely fascinating. I have referred to some journalists, but everyone knows that not all journalists are serious all the time. Who reads what they write? Fortunately, we are allowed to quote them in the House. I am going to read something far more serious than that, an excerpt from the recent Gladue decision.

This is the context, and when I get to the part I wish to emphasize, I will point this out to hon. members.

A number of inquiries and commissions have been held in this country—

This country being Canada.

—to examine, among other things, the effectiveness of the use of incarceration in sentencing. There has been at least one commission or inquiry into the use of imprisonment in each decade of this century since 1914.

Things have changed considerably since 1914. The means of communication have nothing to do with it. It is not that at all. Here is the part I wanted to emphasize:

An examination of the recommendations of these reports reveals one constant theme: imprisonment should be avoided [—]

That was true in 1914.

—imprisonment should be avoided if possible and should be reserved for the most serious offences, particularly those involving violence. They all recommend restraint in the use of incarceration—

This is not a quality of the government opposite.

—and recognize that incarceration has failed to reduce the crime rate and should be used with caution and moderation.

This too seems to have escaped the members opposite.

Imprisonment has failed to satisfy a basic function of the Canadian judicial system which was described in the Report of the Canadian Committee on Corrections entitled: “Toward Unity: Criminal Justice and Corrections” (1969) as “to protect society from crime in a manner commanding public support while avoiding needless injury to the offender”.

If things have come to the point where a citizen who happens to commit an error of judgment and kills someone might be treated, as he will be if this bill is passed, like the hired killer who so neatly put away Dédé Desjardins in Laval ten or so days ago, I think that that is not treating society with respect.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Criminal Code
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BQ

Jocelyne Girard-Bujold

Bloc Québécois

Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold (Jonquière, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, before asking a question to my colleague from Laval Centre, I would like to congratulate her on her speech.

My colleague from Laval-Centre has just brought us back down to earth by telling us what a lot of people in Quebec and elsewhere in Canada are living every day. She has just reminded us that driving a vehicle while impaired is not in and of itself a criminal act that should lead to a life sentence or require a person to be taken out of society.

She has just told us that coercion gets us nowhere. It does not solve anything and it only postpones the real decisions that will have to be made if we really want to solve the problem.

In her wisdom, what does she think the government, which is so disconnected from everyday reality in Canada, should do? What should this government do with Bill C-18? How should people struggling with this problem be treated within the existing laws in Canada?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Criminal Code
Permalink
BQ

Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral

Bloc Québécois

Mrs. Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral

Mr. Speaker, it is always nice to be congratulated for a speech. I sincerely thank the hon. member.

As a matter of fact, there are two simple ways to deal with the problem of impaired driving. The two solutions depend on the federal government. I am under the impression that my colleague opposite is listening.

The first way to deal with the issue is, of course, to use the media to get the message across. The Canadian government has huge advertising budgets. I must recognize that occasionally it does excellent work with ads for the good of the nation. It is not always the case, but when the government is concerned for the good of the nation it is capable of offering constructive and interesting ads that will make viewers think.

As members will appreciate, the most efficient media is, of course, television during prime time. But advertising during this time slot gets very expensive. What is needed is investment, money invested directly in information on TV.

The other solution is also money, but money directed to provinces. The federal government, and this is no longer even an open secret, is amassing surplus after surplus. I do not know how it does it, but the government is keeping its head above the water.

Is it not time, therefore, to restore funding for provincial transfer payments for education and health care—in my speech I referred to alcoholism as a disease—to their 1994 levels so that the provinces, which are well aware of the problem, can have the money they need to invest in effective prevention programs adapted to their clientele? The results could be worthwhile.

Again, I have no doubt that my colleague across will take my suggestion to cabinet, and I thank him in advance.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Criminal Code
Permalink
BQ

René Laurin

Bloc Québécois

Mr. René Laurin (Joliette, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, we are dealing today with Bill C-18 which provides for tougher penalties for those who made the unfortunate decision to drive while impaired, causing death.

Yet, every commission that has studied that issue since 1914— and there has been one almost every ten years—has demonstrated that imprisonment does not deter offenders in such cases. Tougher penalties for those who make such a stupid decision, although not deliberately—it must be stressed—will not make these people think twice about it. Thinking is a good thing, not when we know the consequences of an act, but rather when we start thinking before making a mistake that might have dire consequences.

Impaired drivers who caused death did not really want to kill anyone. What is the difference between two people driving while impaired, one who has the bad luck of hitting and killing someone, and the luckier one who does not meet anyone on his way and does not cause death? Both of them were in the same situation; they were out drinking and driving and both could have been in an accident. Their behavior could have had the same consequences. Yet, one would get punished less harshly than the other who had the misfortune of causing death because of his action.

What do we want to accomplish by increasing sentences in such cases? Do we want to prevent such acts from happening again, or instead, do we not want to get revenge for an event that everyone finds deplorable?

What would we say if, in two separate cases, two people trying to kill another one would prepare a potion containing some poison, the same quantity in both cases, these quantities being known to be sufficient to cause death in most cases? These two people would prepare a poisoned potion, would mix it with the meal of the person for whom the poison is intended, and would wait for the results.

What if, in one case, the dose is enough to kill the person and, in the other one, the same quantity of poison that would normally have the same effect would not give the same result, for all kinds of reasons. In one case, the victim had probably a normal constitution and, in the other one, the victim had a sturdier constitution and resisted to the poison. Would the two people who committed the same act not deserve the same punishment? Would they not deserve the same sentence?

Yet the law requires that we treat them differently. Why? Because in one instance the action caused death and, in the other, the same action did not result in death; however, the result was beyond the control of the two individuals who acted exactly in the same way.

These two individuals both did the same thing with the intent to cause death. In one case, the individual succeeded. In the other, he did not. The courts will give these two persons different sentences.

This is where I think this bill is not logical. By increasing the sentences, we are not preventing anything. We are avenging the victims of some dreadful action. Will such an approach improve the situation? I do not think so.

The best way to bring people to think about what they are doing is to apply a reasonable sentence to anyone who does something reprehensible. What is the reprehensible part of impaired driving causing death? It is not the fact that someone was killed because that part was not intended by the individual who caused the death. The reprehensible action is the act of getting behind the wheel under the influence.

When someone decides to drive while impaired, there is a decision being made. Some people will tell me that decision is not a clear-sighted decision because the individual is drunk and unable to evaluate his condition and his ability to drive a car; nevertheless, a decision is made at that time.

What we need to do, then, is to prevent people from getting behind the wheel when they are drunk. What is the best way to do that? It is certainly not to evaluate the consequences of driving after the fact and say “In one instance, the fault had serious consequences but in another one the consequences were less serious. We will then impose a penalty according to the consequences”. This way of doing things does not improve the situation.

Society is punishing itself by reacting this way because, first, sending someone to prison does not increase chances for rehabilitation. In both those cases, the chances for rehabilitation are just not there. Second, keeping someone in prison entails huge administrative costs.

Keeping a criminal in prison costs about $62,000 a year in Canada. What is the point, for society, of sending someone to prison for 14 years at $62,000 a year, when that person does not need 14 years to realize that what he or she has done was bad? The only point is that it gives the satisfaction of revenge against someone who caused us prejudice by hurting our feelings, our family or our loved ones?

I can understand the resentment of people who experienced such tragedies and who may have lost a spouse or a child. In my riding, there was the case of a doctor who lost his wife at an early age after she was hit by a drunk driver.

Today, this doctor campaigns in favour of improved legislation so these things do not happen again. I understand his sorrow. He will bear the scars left by that tragedy for the rest of his life. He lost a wife he loved, and the sadness he feels will be with him forever.

But by imposing a life sentence on the person who caused that situation, instead of 10 years, for example, will we make the sadness that man feels go away? Will we give him back his beloved wife? Will his children have their mother back? Not at all. It is unfortunate and we must not excuse such actions, but, at the same time, we must not respond to an abuse by an abuse.

A society based on vengeance is going nowhere. If there were cases where society needed to protect itself, if the person found guilty of impaired driving were a repeat offender, if we had every reason to believe that that person would not get back on the right track and would continue to drink and drive and to endanger the life of people, then it would be logical to put that person in jail. Society has a duty to protect itself and its children.

Is that what happens in most cases? Bill C-18 does not solve that problem. If this bill provided for harsher sentences for repeat offenders, it would be easier to understand the intended objective, but it is not the case. It could be a first offence, but if that offence resulted in death, the person would be put in jail.

Imagine that it is your child. Imagine a fine young man or a beautiful girl of 16, 17 or 18 years of age who, at the end of the school year, after the prom, goes out to celebrate the end of their secondary or college education. For the first time in his or her life, this young man or this young girl has too much of a good thing, hops in a—which is probably your car—and, while driving his or her friend home, has an accident and kills somebody.

If it were your children, how would you like them to be punished? Do you think these young people deserve life in prison for a lack of foresight or experience due to their age? Should we ensure that they waste their lives in prison, while depriving society of talents that it could have benefited from for 50, 60 or 70 years?

It would be much more useful to impose on them a sentence that would make them think, that may bring them to dedicate the rest of their lives to the promotion of abstinence, to the promotion of security measures. This would help to ensure that such events do not happen again.

A person in jail is of no help to anybody. If that young boy or that beautiful girl were sent to jail for the rest of their lives, they would be completely lost to society. Would our society find any satisfaction in being able to say: “This guy has killed someone, and he should be put behind bars. We are glad, we wash our hands, and he will not be seen around anymore”? Is this such a great and noble satisfaction that we cannot do without it.

When we try to be objective, we have to admit this kind of crime is beyond pardon, but we should also realize that people who have been involved in such a terrible experience have to be rehabilitated.

I was talking about a young man 18, 19, or 20 years old, but he could be even 25 or 30. It could also be a good family man, 35 or 40 years of age, who goes out to celebrate a special occasion. It could also be somebody celebrating a wedding anniversary or the graduation of one of his children from university. This father or mother can get carried away, have one drink too many, drive and cause someone's death.

Did this person set out to kill somebody? Absolutely not. He or she was taking part in festivities, and when you celebrate, you are not out to kill anybody.

It can happen that we behave in such a way that we accidentally cause death. But, for the sake of improving the situation, should we send a father or mother in prison for the rest of their lives?

We would be telling them “Sir, we will take you away from your wife and kids because you have accidentally killed someone through your negligence and wrongful behaviour. Because of you, another family has lost their father”. Therefore, courts will say, from now on, that in order to repair the harm done to a family, it will cause harm to another family. That is not justice, but vengeance.

A civilized society should not demand an eye for an eye. This course of action is a dead end. What we must do instead is educate.

We must educate the people to make them understand that their actions have consequences. The consequences can be serious, of course, but the act itself is even more serious. It is such acts that we must prevent from being committed.

Campaigns such as Nez Rouge during the Christmas holidays are much more useful than putting people behind bars. Because of these campaigns, more and more people understand that they must not drive their car while impaired. This type of public education ensures that society gains more by using this method than by crying out for vengeance when such a tragedy occurs.

Statistics show that Canada is second to the United States in terms of the incarceration rate. Not a commendable record. I hope the government will understand that its bill goes too far and that it must be withdrawn immediately.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Criminal Code
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BQ

Paul Mercier

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Paul Mercier (Terrebonne—Blainville, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Joliette made some very good points regarding a long standing problem, which has existed from time immemorial and which every country is facing, namely how to ensure that the sentence fits the crime.

I would ask him to comment on the following statement, which has long been considered as the common judicial wisdom of the ages: an appropriate sentence is the one beyond which the guilty party becomes a victim. It is the one which, should it be any harsher, would make the guilty party appear to be a victim in the eyes of the public. This is obviously the case if the sentence is too harsh.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Criminal Code
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BQ

René Laurin

Bloc Québécois

Mr. René Laurin

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for this opportunity to elaborate on what I said earlier.

He is quite right. In other words, it is tantamount to abuse of powers. In my previous life as a teacher, when students did something wrong, we had to punish them of course, but the punishment had to fit the seriousness of their action.

We might tell a student “You broke a window. You are going to have to fix it. You are going to pay for it and we are going to give you a little extra work to do as punishment” or “Your parents are looking after it and you will serve your detention at home. You will be grounded for a few hours”.

If the corrective measure is appropriate and equivalent to the seriousness of the action, the child will benefit enormously and perhaps never repeat the action. However, if the measure taken against him is twice as harsh as the seriousness of what he did, what will the child do? He will start to revolt, because he will feel that he is being punished more severely than his action warrants.

When a child is in revolt, what does he try to do? He feels that people are taking revenge for what he did and, in turn, will seek revenge as well. Things then begin to escalate and no one can say where it will lead. The child grows older. When he becomes an adolescent, he thinks the same way. When he is an adult, he thinks the same way.

It is not the unfortunate consequences of an action that should be punished. It is the action itself and the seriousness of it. This is what I tried to show when I gave the example of the two people preparing the same quantity of poison for two different people. One succeeds and the other does not. They would be given different sentences because one was luckier than the other. Yet, the action of each is as serious as the other's, and the intent was the same, to kill.

Even in cases where the intent is the same, the law would not punish in the same way. Why would the government do so in Bill C-18, when the intention of the person driving while intoxicated is never to cause the death of another person?

Of course, there is a greater risk that he will, but that is not his intention. Yet, that person would be treated like a criminal who walks into a bank or a senior citizens home—there is intent here—and shoots people at point-blank range.

If a person driving while impaired should kill someone, that person would be treated like criminals who kill people intentionally.

In its current form, Bill C-18 is more about seeking vengeance to please people who, unfortunately, whose lives were affected by such tragedies, either directly or indirectly, in their family. To show that we sympathize with their plight, that we share their grief, we will impose excessive sentences that do not fit the circumstances and have nothing to do with the justice that should be applied.

Again, I urge the government to give this serious thought. Beyond the votes that the government may win by pleasing people who, understandably so, would like to see such a bill become law, there is more to consider, namely the interest of society in the longer term. Instead of locking up forever people who made a mistake and are willing to do something about it by playing a positive role in society, we have to consider how we can best help these people.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Criminal Code
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BQ

Jocelyne Girard-Bujold

Bloc Québécois

Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold (Jonquière, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak this afternoon following my colleagues from Laval Centre and from Joliette, who have both dealt in their remarks with the human side of the problem which should be taken into consideration before the government has this bill passed by the House.

I will draw the attention of the hon. members and of the government to statistics that are relevant to this problem, because I feel it is important. Beyond the remarks of my two colleagues, it is important to tell the government that statistics currently available show that the courts have not used the full range of sentences allowed by the criminal code. Far from it.

The stiffest prison sentence handed down for impaired driving causing death has been ten years. That is the maximum sentence imposed on offenders these days.

Judges, who are in the best position to consider the specifics of each offender, have not been using the whole range of sentences allowed by the criminal code. The criminal code already sets at 14 years the maximum sentence for impaired driving causing death. The ratio of offenders sent to prison after a conviction for impaired driving has dropped from 22% in 1994-95 to 19% in 1997-98.

The prison sentences brought down in these cases are for the most part less than two years. Hon. members heard correctly. The courts could sentence offenders to 14 years, but sentences are currently less than two years.

Why then pass legislation to allow life sentences if the courts are not inclined to make full use of the tools available to them already?

I would also like to cite other statistics. The offence of impaired driving causing death is not on the increase at the present time. In 1998, 103 people were charged with impaired driving causing death, the lowest figure for this offence since 1989.

In addition to what is stated in this bill, there are some preventive programs that have already had an effect.

Canada has become a champion as far as imprisonment is concerned. When something is going wrong, instead of looking into the problem, let's throw them in jail. Good riddance, we don't have to deal with the problem any more.

To echo the words of my colleague for Laval Centre, take the person, put him in a box and lock him up, that is all.

This runs counter to what the supreme court justices concluded in Gladue , where they faulted the federal legislator for being too quick to imprison delinquents. These are not my words. It is what two honourable justices of the supreme court said.

I will read a few excerpts from the decision in Gladue :

Canada is a world leader in many fields, particularly in the areas of progressive social policy and human rights. Unfortunately, our country is also distinguished as being a world leader in putting people in prison. Although the United States has by far the highest rate of incarceration among industrialized democracies, at over 600 inmates per 100,000 population, Canada's rate of approximately 130 inmates per 100,000 population places it second or third highest. Moreover, the rate at which Canadian courts have been imprisoning offenders has risen sharply in recent years, although there has been a slight decline of late.

I think that everybody in this House knows it, but many choose to ignore the day-to-day realities of our society. Since being elected as the member for Jonquière, I have noticed that, in its ivory tower, this government unilaterally adopts bills that are totally out of touch with the realities faced by the people when it comes to taking action.

This government is listening closely to the Canadian extreme right, which believes that the solution to any and every problem in Canada is the law of retaliation. These people believe that we should condemn first and then say “The longer you will stay in jail, the better it will be for you and for society”.

It is not true. This is not the way Quebecers think. This is not what we think. I find that the Quebec society is ahead of its time in many areas.

Prevention is required. What could be more beneficial to find solutions, to find an ideal way out and solve problems in society, than prevention programs?

This government is ignoring the prevention means we are advocating to help people. I am not saying that driving a vehicle while impaired is not serious, especially when lives are lost. That is not what I am saying. I am saying that, right now, we should establish prevention and education programs. We must start educating our children when they are young. In Quebec, we have very good prevention campaigns, aimed at society as a whole, which that drinking and driving is a crime.

That is certainly true, but we must also consider the fact that nobody can say it will never happen to them. Everybody has surely had a drink or two when they were extremely tired and then got behind the wheel. An accident could happen.

Such people are not criminals. I do not think that they are criminals. If something happens, it is just an accident. The notion of accident will have to be considered. In Quebec, we consider alcoholism a disease. We will have to invest a lot of money in research so people have places to go to be treated for alcoholism.

As my colleague for Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques said earlier, there is an ignition interlock system with a breathalizer available in Canada, particularly in Quebec and in Alberta. The criminal code should be amended to allow judges to order an offender to have such a system installed on his or her vehicle as a condition of parole or in exchange for a reduction of the driving prohibition period.

I can see in the document that was given to me by my colleague that this system has been proven effective. Why not require all car manufacturers to install such a system on all vehicles?

We could also give tax breaks to those who have such a system installed on their vehicle. It would be a way to reduce the number of people who drink and drive.

As my colleague from Joliette said, during the holiday season, in Quebec, we have Operation Nez Rouge. I do not know if there is such a thing in the other provinces of Canada, but Nez Rouge is an organization that tells people “You want to celebrate during the holiday season; leave your keys and your car where you are, dial this telephone number and someone will come and pick you up and drive you home.”

Because of that, in Quebec, since Nez Rouge has been in operation, the number of people driving while impaired has significantly decreased during the holiday season. The success rate is extraordinary and I would like to say, incidentally, that this not for profit organization is manned by volunteers who provide the service. That is another way of saying that we have to deal with alcoholism.

It is not through legislation imposing life imprisonment that we will deal with the problem. This is not the way to make people more responsible. I am not talking about people who have repeatedly driven while impaired, who have no social conscience and get behind the wheel even though they know they are not allowed to drive. I am talking about individuals who are doing it once in their life and whose families and fellow workers will be branded for the rest of their life. That is not the way we should act in Canada; that is not the way the government should act to improve the situation and make society more responsible with regard to this scourge, which is less prevalent in our society, according to the statistics I mentioned earlier.

I ask the Minister of Justice to withdraw her bill. It is not constructive, it is repressive. I want to warn her and tell her that she is on the wrong track with the young offenders bill. It takes the same approach.

I think that right now this government is assuming that the people of this country are second-class citizens, that they lack judgement, that they are not aware and that they are not able to improve. That is unacceptable. The federal government has only one speed when it comes to criminal justice: overdrive.

This bill goes too far. In both the young offenders bill and the impaired driving bill, the Minister of Justice reveals her inability to manage complex problems without resorting to dangerously repressive measures. There is no justification for this attitude, because crime, I repeat, has been on the decrease in Canada for several years now. Furthermore, there are no studies showing that such an approach is effective.

We must guard against inflated sentencing, which bears a dangerous resemblance to an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. Nobody will win in this mad race except the jailers.

But law and order politics are very popular politically, as the Minister of Justice is well aware. As for justice, and more specifically youth crime, there is also opposition to this bill because of the simplistic measures proposed by the federal government.

I think that this government will have to stop and think, that it will have to get back in touch with what people really experience every day, if our society is to improve and not be undermined by bills such as this one.

There is still time for the Minister of Justice to withdraw her bill and I and my fellow members of the Bloc Quebecois urge her to do so.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Criminal Code
Permalink
?

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, Gasoline Prices; the hon. member for Jonquière, Importation of Plutonium.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Criminal Code
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BQ

Suzanne Tremblay

Bloc Québécois

Mrs. Suzanne Tremblay (Rimouski—Mitis, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, I agreed to speak on Bill C-18 concerning the amendment to the criminal code, because it was impossible for me to remain silent in face of a somewhat hateful bill.

For some reason that is totally unknown to me and that seems totally unfounded and nonsensical, the Minister of Justice strikes again, with a bill in which she wants to amend the criminal code to provide a maximum sentence of life imprisonment for an impaired driver involved in an accident causing the death of another person.

This bill also wants to provide for the taking of blood samples for the purpose of testing for the presence of drugs.

In looking at the nature of the debate we are having today, where only the Bloc Quebecois feels the need to speak out and to alert the people against this hateful bill, I realize once again that Quebec is a distinct society. If we were still looking for reasons to leave Canada, we just found a new one. Canada and Quebec are not on the same wavelength on such an important bill for society.

I certainly do not want to underestimate the importance of an accident involving an impaired driver who causes the death of another person. A death, no matter the circumstances, is always sad and painful, but when it is caused by an impaired driver, the loss seems even more terrible.

So, we do not want to diminish the gravity of the offence, but I want to pause to reflect on the issue.

When the Prime Minister introduced in the House his famous notion of a distinct society for Quebec—and he still blames us for voting against it—he was told “Mr. Prime Minister, what you are proposing is an empty shell”.

Quebec is a distinct society, but it can never express its distinctiveness. It is not allowed to be distinct. There is a move toward increasingly centralized policies, toward wall to wall policies. Provincial jurisdiction is increasingly being encroached upon. In spite of all that, Quebec feels more and more distinct. The more we learn of the values of Canadian society, the more concerned we are about the future of Quebec's society.

I do not wish to make an issue of this, but let me point out that the Minister is, first and foremost, a member from western Canada. In western Canada, the Liberal Party has a fierce opponent. It used to be called the Reform Party. It is now called the Canadian Alliance.

Since 1993, we in the Bloc Quebecois have seen how the Liberal government, which used to be a progressive government—not as in Progressive Conservative, but progressive in the real meaning of the word—which went ahead with forward-looking policies became backward-looking. It is turned more toward the 19th century, while we are steaming full speed ahead into the 21st century with all the tools the new technology has to offer.

This government is asking the wrong questions. Let us try to find out which ones. What do Quebec and Canadian societies want? They want their politicians to give them laws that will ensure the betterment of society, and not laws that will make life in society increasingly difficult and stifling.

What has happened so far? We have the criminal code. Currently, when an individual drives a vehicle while impaired, and unfortunately causes an accident which results in a fatality, the criminal code provides that the judge may sentence this individual to 14 years in prison. To this day, no judge has ever sentenced anyone to more than 10 years. And it was such an accomplishment it made the headlines across the country, pointing out that, at long last, a judge had dared give 10 years for impaired driving causing death.

Why, when nothing more than a 10 year sentence has ever been imposed, suddenly come up with a measure expected to be more effective because it provides for life imprisonment? What does society want? What values underlie this specific measure? Is our role as politicians to find a way to avenge what happened to someone else in society? Must we only advocate a punitive, coercive approach? Is this really the reason why we exist as a parliament?

Or do we not, on the contrary, want to educate our fellow citizens by teaching them a value such as moderation? Quebec's liquor board, the Société des alcools, sponsored a campaign to encourage people to drink with moderation. The campaign's theme “La modération a bien meilleur goût” was displayed everywhere, along highways, in newspapers and magazines and on the television and radio.

While alcohol sales and profits did not go down, Quebecers' behaviour changed. Now, when you entertain guests at home, it is not rare to hear someone say “I will only have juice or Perrier water, because I am the designated driver”.

Countries such as Sweden introduced educational and progressive measures to improve the situation. But here we want to punish people, we seek vengeance.

That approach will not work, as evidenced by the research done. All the criminologists in the world will tell you that putting people in prison is not the solution. On the contrary, we should find ways and pass legislation that will help us create public awareness, and invest money in educational programs and initiatives designed to make people more responsible.

What does Operation Nez Rouge do in Quebec? It is a huge success. That initiative is now beginning to spread to Ontario and the maritime provinces. What does Operation Nez Rouge do? It tells people “Do not forget, it is important to celebrate, but if you drink, do not drive; we will drive you home for free”.

We can pass legislation to influence the public for the better. The goal of members of parliament should not be to use public funds to build more prisons.

What is the Minister of Justice doing now with her criminal code reform? She must be on the verge of sending kindergarten kids to prison. She is not pleased to see that our own reform in Quebec is successful with young offenders. She wants to undermine our efforts. It is just one more reason to get out of this country.

Bill C-18 will lead us nowhere. If this bill is passed in its original form, we will negate the specific nature of this offence and create a serious imbalance in our criminal justice system. The most important question we should ask about this reform of the criminal code is whether we really want what is best for the offender who has a bad habit of drinking and driving, or if we want to fight the political right on its own turf and win more votes in the next election by promoting harsh punishments that are out of proportion with the offence.

Let nobody be mistaken. I do think impaired driving is a serious offence. It is an action that cannot be rationalized. We have a hard time accepting it, but we should be helping people get rid of that bad habit instead of punishing them and locking them up for the rest of their life.

This reminds me of the answer the solicitor general gave me this afternoon during question period when I asked how the public could understand what was going on. I said “Thanks to the parole program, about one hundred Rock Machine members will soon be released from prison. How can we possibly allow crime gang members to benefit from a reintegration measure such as parole, when we are well aware that as soon as they get out of prison they will go to war against another crime gang?” The minister stood up and replied that I should not worry, that everything is under control, saying “My hon. colleague is well aware that whenever anybody receives parole, it is granted through the National Parole Board. This is an arm's length body that reviews all the information and public safety is always the number one issue”. All is well; if they are out it is because they are not dangerous. Those are the regulations and we respect regulations.

However, everyone knows that any member of a crime gang who gets out of prison will be a worse offender than before, because a prison is no place for rehabilitation, and he will be very happy to resume his position within the gang and wage war against other gangs.

When they talk about life imprisonment for people who are in a car accident, we have to wonder why. I am no expert on the criminal code or criminal law, but I know there are two things in the code. There are people sentenced to 25 years imprisonment without eligibility for parole and there are people sentenced to life.

There seems to be a difference. I hope somebody will explain the difference to me someday so I can understand, but I have been told that there is a difference between the two and that, in this case, someone who is sentenced to life imprisonment could, depending on the conditions set by the judge, serve only a few years because he would be eligible to parole after serving a third of his sentence.

I wonder why we go to so much trouble to pass such hypocritical bills. Although judges can now sentence people to 14 years, they usually sentence them to two, three or four years. There is one exception, a 10 year sentence.

There is also one thing one must not forget. The crime rate is dropping in Canada, as statistics show clearly. The proportion of individuals who were incarcerated after being convicted of impaired driving decreased in 1994-95 and 1997-98. Thus, within three years, the proportion of incriminated individuals went from 22% to 19%. Most prison terms in these cases are less than two years.

Why legislate to allow life imprisonment, if the courts are not willing to fully use the instruments they already have? Although impaired driving causing death is an offence of considerable importance, it is wrong to claim that we are currently faced with a huge upturn in its figures.

In 1998, only 103 people in Canada were charged with impaired driving causing death. Hon. members will respond that this is 103 people too many, which it is, but putting those 103 in prison for 25 years is not the way to help the 100 more who will come along the following year and be found guilty.

Educational measures must be found so that society can be changed rather than punished, so that there is education rather than revenge. Canada has become a champion as far as putting people in jail is concerned, just behind the United States. This is hardly a record of which to be proud.

As far as the incarceration rate is concerned, we rank second in the entire world. I think our Prime Minister would be delighted if he were able to say we were 180th. For once, being last would be a good thing. Instead of being first, we are second, with no one higher than us but the Americans. It is a shame. Canada uses imprisonment twice as often as most European countries.

In this connection, the supreme court was very clear, and I quote an excerpt from the judgment in G ladue :

Canada is a world leader in many fields, particularly in the areas of progressive social policy and human rights

I myself pointed this out at the start of my remarks. I continue quoting:

Unfortunately, our country is also distinguished as being a world leader in putting people in prison. Although the United States has by far the highest rate of incarceration among industrialized democracies, at over 600 inmates per 100,000 population, Canada's rate of approximately 130 inmates per 100,000 population places it second or third highest. Moreover, the rate at which Canadian courts have been imprisoning offenders has risen sharply in recent years, although there has been a slight decline of late.

All the measures that the Minister of Justice has proposed since she assumed this position are such that we are looking at increasing numbers of incarcerations. Is it the aim of the Prime Minister to surpass the United States in numbers of prisoners? It would be interesting to have him tell us in the next election that his aim is to put as many Canadians as possible behind bars and, if possible, not too many Liberals, because he wants to win his election.

I had prepared a much longer speech on this bill, which I find extremely painful and difficult to understand and which will long be hard to swallow.

We will have an election campaign in which we will remind the people that this government is hateful and insensitive, right of centre and bringing us more violence than what we have at the moment, because its model seems to be the American society. In matters of values, Quebec is apart.

We want an educational approach. We want rehabilitation. Once again, I repeat, I am pleased to note that you are giving us one more reason to bow out.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Criminal Code
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LIB

Derek Lee

Liberal

Mr. Derek Lee (Parliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, we are enjoying the debate this afternoon on a subject that most Canadians regard as a top drawer issue; the way we deal with the criminal code offence of drinking and driving and causing death.

Would the hon. member accept that the bill is not about incarcerating more people? Rather, it is about articulating for Canadians that the offence we are dealing with, which it is so frequent now, killing as a result of drunk driving, has increased to the point where it is overshadowing all other serious offences. Canadians want that type of killing offence numbered among the most not just serious offences in the criminal code but the most serious among the offences involving the taking of life, whether wilful or not.

What this particular piece of legislation does is it moves up the range of sentencing. It does not increase the bottom range but it does increase the top range. By increasing the range, we effectively signal to the courts and the public that we regard this as among the most serious offences. That is the reason for the bill. It is not for the purpose of throwing more alcohol addicted drivers into prison. Would the hon. member accept that as the purpose of the bill?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Criminal Code
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BQ

Suzanne Tremblay

Bloc Québécois

Mrs. Suzanne Tremblay

Mr. Speaker, I sincerely wonder why my colleague does not consult the same statistics that we are being provided with. We do make these figures up. Why does he not go to the sources, the official sources which prove without a doubt that everything he has just said is far removed from reality?

In that area, the crime rate is going down. It is not rising, it is decreasing. When I say that this government wants to incarcerate more people, it means that from the moment an individual is sentenced to life imprisonment, he will have to serve at least 25 years behind bars unless the judge takes into consideration other circumstances or unless the individual benefits from conditional release after a certain time, perhaps 10 years.

Currently, the average length of imprisonment is about two years and even less. We all know that individuals sentenced to two years plus one day are sent to a federal rather than a provincial institution. We know very well what the results are at the end of the day. Individuals come out of federal prisons worst than before their incarceration because the federal government does not focus on rehabilitation or re-education, but on punishment and revenge. Those are not the values which guide Quebecers.

We have been trying as hard as possible to rehabilitate people who have committed crimes, even young offenders. Our level of success is staggering. Some people who were involved in well-known situations, for example the FLQ, were able to study in prison and they became university professors. Today, they are unknown to anyone who has not seen their snapshots at the time of the FLQ crisis.

We do not want this kind of prison system. For us, Quebecers, Canada may be turning into a jail. Most of all, we do not want more Quebecers incarcerated by the federal government than we have now.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Criminal Code
Permalink

May 11, 2000