November 9, 2006

LIB

John McKay

Liberal

Hon. John McKay

Mr. Speaker, I agree with the member. We are dealing with the worst of the worst and, therefore, a very small minority of people. At any given time, there are only 21,000 people under Correctional Service supervision. Of those, about 8,000 are in some form of non-custodial supervision. We are dealing with a very small subset of a group of people. The commitment on the part of the Conservative Party during the election was to crack down on crime. In fact, it is cracking down on a very micro-subset of the worst of the worst.

I point out that section 752 has already been constitutionally challenged and has already been upheld in the courts. By putting this overreach into the courts is in fact opening up section 752 for an entire constitutional challenge. The risk he runs does not in any way commensurate with the harm that he wishes to address.

First, we are dealing with a micro-subset of a subset of a micro-subset. Second, he is putting at risk the entire constitutionality of section 752.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
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LIB

Derek Lee

Liberal

Mr. Derek Lee (Scarborough—Rouge River, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, during these remarks and prior remarks there was a suggestion that this legislation attempted to deal with the worst of the worst.

I have looked at the schedule of offences listed in the bill. While they are all criminal offences, they might not be classed as the worst of the worst. There are some 56 separate offences listed, not just the rape scenario mentioned by one of the members opposite. I agree a rape situation is an extremely serious offence and three of them in a row leads one to an obvious conclusion. However, the offences listed can include ordinary assault, an abduction of a child from Canada, which could be a parent leaving with the child without authorization, and robbery. I am not saying they are not criminal offences, but the members opposite described these offences as the worst of the worst.

Would my colleague care to comment on the list, given that we are dealing with a “three strikes and you're out” presumptive scenario in the bill?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
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LIB

John McKay

Liberal

Hon. John McKay

Mr. Speaker, I think California has something of a parallel legislation and it is finding that it does not work. It catches a bunch of unintended consequences. My hon. colleague addresses one of the unintended consequences.

The members opposite think this is like three brutal assaults, therefore this person is unable to control himself or herself. This constitutes a danger to society and, therefore, the individual should be put away as a dangerous offender. However, by lowering the standard of the offence, effectively we are opening up the entire Criminal Code, within a certain realm, to people who probably the members opposite do no intend to have convicted as serious offenders. By reversing the onus, for instance two assaults and now a third assault, one may or may not be the worst of the worst. One may have other problems that get one there.

The times when I was in court, which I do not think were nearly as frequent as he was in court, a lot of the people convicted were people who had all kinds of other problems. Something in the order of about 70% of the offender population is functionally illiterate. A lot of them have serious mental health issues. What we are doing is designating a lot of these people as dangerous offenders, putting them away in an indeterminate fashion and letting them rot.

I do not see the argument that they hon. members opposite are making to support the bill. It is literally taking a howitzer to kill a gnat.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
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NDP

Pat Martin

New Democratic Party

Mr. Pat Martin (Winnipeg Centre, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, coming from Winnipeg Centre, one of the most shocking things, when dealing with criminal justice issues or sentencing, is acknowledging the overrepresentation of aboriginal people in our prison system to date.

When I looked at the schedule of offences being contemplated for inclusion under the bill, it struck me right away that it will exacerbate the appalling social situation where aboriginal people are locked up at an alarming rate disproportionate to their size in the population.

Has my colleague given any thought to whether there was any cultural analysis given to the bill when it was crafted in that light?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
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LIB

John McKay

Liberal

Hon. John McKay

Mr. Speaker, the discouraging part is I do not think much analysis has gone into the bill. It is simply election rhetoric and reaction to that rhetoric.

The hon. member rightly points out that, particularly in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, aboriginal offenders are seriously overrepresented in the criminal court system. Frequently they have problems outside of simply criminal issues, whether it is mental health issues or other social issues. The hon. member would know all these things better than I would.

That was my point on the previous issue. The bill will catch a whole bunch of people whom not one person in the chamber thought would get caught. It is easy. An individual has two assaults. This individual is on the streets. The person has an alcohol problem or a mental health issue problem, et cetera. The Crown gives notice, the defence counsel, who is usually duty counsel and does not really know the offender, will try to do his or her best to do a defence on a reverse onus and our friend, on the streets of Winnipeg, is in an indeterminate sentence, which essentially is a life sentence, for what otherwise would have been maybe a two year or a four year conviction.

That is how it will play out. I think there is a significant chance of injustice as a consequence of that.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
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CPC

Dave Batters

Conservative

Mr. Dave Batters (Palliser, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Scarborough—Guildwood has stood in the House and referred to the bill as being stupid. I must thank him for this astute legal analysis. As proof of this point, the hon. member offers up the assertion that the bill might be found unconstitutional by our courts because it contains what is called the reverse onus.

Briefly, there is a list of provisions in the Criminal Code containing the reverse onus. They have either been unchallenged through the years or held to be constitutional. Examples of these are: section 515, bail provision; section 490, a sex offender registry provision; section 16, not criminally responsible provision; and section 487, DNA orders. I could go on. In other words, there are multiple precedents in the Criminal Code for a reverse onus provision.

Would the member for Scarborough—Guildwood would rise in his place and retract that statement?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
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LIB

John McKay

Liberal

Hon. John McKay

Not a chance, Mr. Speaker. The hon. member is correct to say that there are reverse onus provisions in the Criminal Code. He is incorrect to say that it is reverse onus for indeterminate sentences. An indeterminate sentence is essentially a life sentence. A person is away at the pleasure of Her Majesty. That is it, end of the story.

It will be a red flag in front of the court which inevitably will be challenged. The hon. member and his government have put the entire dangerous offender section of the Criminal Code at risk by doing so.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
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CPC

Dave Batters

Conservative

Mr. Dave Batters (Palliser, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, to finish up on that last point before I begin my remarks, there are multiple precedents in the Criminal Code for reverse onus provisions. Moreover, the burden is on the accused, an accused who has already been found guilty of the crime. That is key. The person has already been found guilty.

The bill is not stupid. It is the legal analysis of the hon. member opposite that more readily meets this description.

It is humorous to watch the member anticipate, almost with glee, the efforts of defence lawyers. He talks about the amount of time he spent in court, but who we really need to be listening to are the citizens of Canada who send us to this place, who sit and watch this on television and who may have spent no time in the courtroom, but who know, because common sense tells them, that this is the right thing to do for people who commit multiple, heinous crimes. We are talking about the worst of the worst here. We are talking about the Peter Whitmores of this world.

This is part of what sparked this type of courageous bill from the Minister of Justice. We are talking about locking up indeterminately, for at least seven years, the worst of the worst. Canadians coast to coast to coast know it is the right thing to do. It is only the Liberals, the Bloc Québécois and the NDP members who do not know that it is the right thing to do.

It is my privilege today to speak in favour of Bill C-27, which proposes to strengthen and clarify certain provisions relating to dangerous and long term offenders as well as two types of peace bonds. This bill seeks to accomplish the following reforms.

First, it proposes a number of changes to the dangerous offender provisions of the Criminal Code. These changes are designed to address concerns that since 2003 there have been problems encountered in securing dangerous offender designations. These changes include a new reverse onus provision, a new provision that codifies the determination of fitness of sentence, a new declaration provision and some procedural changes regarding the psychiatric assessment.

Second, this bill will introduce a number of amendments to toughen the sections 810.1 and 810.2 peace bonds that allow police and crown prosecutors to impose extensive conditions on individuals in our communities who have a high risk of committing serious sexual or violent offences.

Certainly these reforms are significant in the overall context of offender management, which is the federal responsibility of Correctional Service Canada, or CSC, within the Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness. My speech today will focus on the Correctional Service, Canada's management of high risk offenders, and how the proposed provisions will assist these officials to monitor and supervise criminals who are at risk to commit violent and/or sexual offences.

The role of CSC is very important to highlight in the context of the amendments to the sentencing legislation. CSC is generally responsible for the management of all offenders who receive federal sentences of detention, that is, sentences of two years or more in a penitentiary.

Once an offender is sentenced, the role of CSC commences, in balancing assisting offenders in their rehabilitation with measures of control. This role continues throughout the duration of the sentence. Public safety is the paramount consideration.

Upon intake, each offender is assessed to determine appropriate interventions or programs. The assessment is multi-faceted and incorporates risk-based historical factors as well as the need for correctional intervention.

Risk-based historical factors are derived from tools such as criminal records and any sex offence history, as well as guidelines established by the Correctional Service to assess serious harm. The need for correctional intervention is determined through an analysis of factors such as employment, marital and family status, substance abuse, community functioning and the attitude of the offender.

The factors used to determine intervention are dynamic. As such, they require continuous monitoring to establish risks for reoffending posed by the offender at any given time. When all the factors are considered, offenders can be identified as high risk, the level of intervention required to achieve safe and timely reintegration into society can be determined, and a correctional plan can be established for the offender.

The correctional plan provides information about the management of an offender's sentence from beginning to end. It may include correctional interventions such as the referral to one of a range of accredited correctional programs, including the violence prevention program or the national substance abuse program, in order to meet the varying needs of offenders.

Other interventions may include increased levels of contact between an offender and a parole officer, psychological counselling, and community based substance abuse programs. These interventions are crucial in assisting the successful reintegration of offenders.

I have briefly outlined the role of the Correctional Service at intake. I will now speak about parole offenders generally and how this relates to the legislation before the House today.

Generally, an offender may or may not be granted parole eligibility by a judge in accordance with the Criminal Code. Offenders who are granted parole eligibility must serve one-third of their sentence before they are eligible to be released on parole. For certain violent offenders a judge may impose parole eligibility at one-half of the sentence or 10 years, whichever is less. For dangerous offenders, there is no parole eligibility for the first seven years and then every two years thereafter.

The offences that carry a parole eligibility requirement of one-half of the offender's sentence must be pursued by way of indictment and may not be a minimum punishment, and the offender must receive a sentence of imprisonment of two years or more. These offences include some of the most egregious crimes, such as sexual interference and sexual exploitation involving victims under 14 years of age.

The paroled release of an offender has a graduated approach rather than a cold release into the community. For instance, conditions may be recommended to the National Parole Board, such as imposing a curfew on the offender, to reduce the risk that the parolee will reoffend.

Offenders who have not been granted parole eligibility under the Criminal Code are eligible for statutory release. This is an inmate's legal entitlement, with exceptions for inmates serving life or indeterminate sentences to be released into the community after serving two-thirds of their sentences.

All federal offenders are to be reviewed for parole by the National Parole Board, if eligible, unless they waive this right. The board, in determining parole, is guided by a list of principles, including that the protection of society is the paramount consideration in all cases. The board must also consider certain criteria to grant parole. It must be of the opinion that an offender will not reoffend.

The National Parole Board must consider whether there is an undue risk to society before the expiration of the offender's sentence. It must also be satisfied that the release of an offender will contribute to the protection of society by facilitating the reintegration of the offender into society as a law-abiding citizen.

For dangerous offenders, the onus is on the offender to prove that he or she poses no risk to the public if parole is granted. Dangerous offenders are very rarely granted even limited parole. According to the National Parole Board, about 99% of all dangerous offender parole applications are rejected outright. This compares to, for example, parole applications for offenders convicted of first degree and second degree murder, whose parole applications are denied about 65% of the time.

As a result, the dangerous offender indeterminate sentence is often referred to as the toughest penalty in Canadian criminal law. Three main areas are considered during the board's review: an assessment of an offender's criminal and social history; the offender's institutional behaviour and results of interventions; and the release plan and community management strategy.

With respect to an offender's criminal and social history, many factors are assessed, such as the details of the offence, criminal history, substance abuse, and physical and mental health. Institutional behaviour and intervention assessment considers any evidence of a change in the offender as a result of the benefit of any treatment or program participation while incarcerated, as well as the offender's understanding of the current offence and previous criminal behaviour.

When assessing the release plan and community management strategy, National Parole Board members will consider the availability of programs or counselling, supervision controls, and whether special conditions are required to manage risk factors in the community.

Given all of these considerations and criteria, along with internal board policies, parole may not be granted to those offenders who are viewed as high risk and represent an undue risk to reoffend.

Canadians across the country have told us that they want to take action on crime. With this landmark legislation, we are delivering, but we cannot do the job alone. We need the support of the opposition MPs to help us pass this important legislation that we have introduced to tackle crime.

Despite grand overtures and rhetoric, the opposition has done little to actually get tough on crime in this Parliament. The opposition talked a lot about getting tough on crime during the election campaign, but this is really about what happens after the election. It is about how members stand in the House and represent their constituents and how they vote.

There is only one party that is sticking up for safe streets and safe communities and sticking up for the safety of our children and our seniors, and that is the Conservative Party of Canada and this government. I call upon the opposition to stop watering down crime legislation and do as it promised in the election campaign. Let us get on with the job of making our streets safe for all Canadians.

I would like to mention a few members in the House who are on board. They know the importance of getting tough on crime. First of all, they are led by the Minister of Justice, but we also have the member for Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, the member for Regina—Qu'Appelle, the member for Wild Rose, the member for Cambridge, the member for Northumberland—Quinte West, the member for Oxford, the member for Okanagan—Shuswap, and the list goes on with every single member on this side of the House. I see the member for Macleod looking at me. I see the member for Vegreville—Wainwright. They all want credit and they are all working extremely hard on this file to get tough on crime. I wish the members opposite would join us in that venture.

I thought I was going to have 10 minutes, but it turns out that I have 20 minutes so I want to talk to the House a little about how crime affects people in my riding of Palliser and across the entire province of Saskatchewan.

In case members do not know, Saskatchewan continues to be the crime capital of Canada under an NDP government. For the information of the House and the members opposite, I would like to let Canadians know what life is like under an NDP government.

Per capita, Saskatchewan's overall crime rate is higher than Ontario's. Saskatchewan is the murder capital of Canada. That is shocking. Saskatchewan has the highest rate of violent offences of any province in Canada. Saskatchewan continues to have the highest property crime rate in Canada. Crime rates for robbery in my home city of Regina are the third highest of any city in the country. Regina has the highest number of car thefts in Canada, again per capita.

All of us in this chamber and everyone watching at home recognize that this is a disgrace. The people of Palliser and the people of Saskatchewan have a right to feel safe in their homes and on their streets. Instead, every year they find that they live in the most dangerous province in Canada, thanks to years of provincial NDP and federal Liberal governments.

One would think that members of the opposition, when presented with a bill like Bill C-27, would support our government's tough new measures to crack down on dangerous offenders. Again, we are talking about the worst of the worst. We are talking about two dozen individuals a year. That is what we are talking about.

The members opposite and the members in the NDP refuse to support this bill, a bill that puts the onus on offenders who have already been convicted of three violent or sexual offences to justify why they should be released into a community. This is perfectly reasonable.

People at home recognize that it is perfectly reasonable. In fact, many of my constituents have contacted me wondering why we give people three chances. This is the Canadian way. We have a heart and we try to rehabilitate people, but there is a certain point at which we have to say enough is enough. Canadians are with us. To me and to the citizens of Palliser, the approach of this government makes a lot of sense.

That is not what we are hearing from the opposition benches today. I cannot believe that those members are not going to support this bill. Canada's new government is ready to take immediate action to get tough on dangerous offenders. I ask the members opposite, particularly the members of the NDP, to stand up today and join our efforts.

I ask that they do the right thing and support our efforts to make our neighbourhoods safe, but perhaps that is wishful thinking. After all, let us look at the record of the NDP when it comes to crime and criminal justice bills. The NDP joined with the Liberals to gut an important piece of our government's legislation, Bill C-9, which would have eliminated house arrest for arsonists, car thieves and criminals who break into the homes of our citizens.

It sounds perfectly reasonable to me that if someone burns down a building, steals a car or breaks into someone's home, they should probably go to jail. The members in the opposition parties do not think so. They think these offenders should be eligible to serve their sentences perhaps in the comfort of their own living rooms. Canadians know that is wrong.

I know the NDP members like to advocate softer sentences for criminals and make excuses for why we should not get tough on crime but Canadians understand that gutting important crime bills and failing to stand behind legislation, like Bill C-27, is simply wrong.

When it comes to Bill C-27, the NDP justice critic did not do the right thing and voice his support for our bill. Instead, he criticized the Conservative government for bringing forward legislation to target dangerous offenders. He suggested that the bill, including its reverse onus provisions, violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

However, during the last election campaign the NDP said that it supported a reverse onus on bail for all gun related crimes. The NDP members cannot have it all ways. They cannot say one thing during an election campaign and then do a flip-flop once they come to this chamber. While I am on this topic, I should mention that the former Liberal justice minister also dismissed this bill outright. It is shameful.

It is clear that the NDP are content to say anything to get elected but when it comes to standing behind their words and doing the right thing they simply cannot be trusted. I think the facts speak for themselves. There is only one party in Canada today that is standing up for safer communities, safer neighbourhoods and safer streets and that is the Conservative Party of Canada and this new government.

I am so proud to support Bill C-27 on behalf of the citizens of Palliser. It is the right thing to do. It is the tough action on crime that Palliser residents have called for. What I hear all the time is that enough is enough, and this is the right thing to do.

I would like to take this opportunity during Remembrance Week and with Remembrance Day on Saturday to urge all Canadians to share the story of remembrance and to take the time to remember our veterans and those who currently serve in the Canadian Forces around the world, including our brave men and women in Afghanistan. The veterans and the members of the Canadian Forces are people to whom we owe everything that we enjoy today. We owe everything to those individuals. I urge members to take the time to remember, as I am sure all Canadians will.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
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CPC

Andrew Scheer

Conservative

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Andrew Scheer)

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 Laval, Health; the hon. member for Nanaimo—Cowichan, Aboriginal Affairs.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
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LIB

Derek Lee

Liberal

Mr. Derek Lee (Scarborough—Rouge River, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I want to try to correct the record, if I may. The member who just spoke referred to Bill C-9, a bill that just passed through this place. While it arguably may not be bang on relevant, it was mentioned by the member in his speech.

The member and the Minister of Justice have publicly stated that arson was removed from Bill C-9. Is the member aware that arson of a dwelling house still remains within Bill C-9? What those members are saying to Canadians, almost every day, is, I could be polite and say that it is wrong, but it is misleading to the point of being deceitful.

Is the member aware that arson of an inhabited dwelling house is a personal injury offence? It is quite unfair to Canadians for him and the justice minister to continue to repeat those remarks. It is misleading and most unfair.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
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CPC

Dave Batters

Conservative

Mr. Dave Batters

Mr. Speaker, I will certainly look into that. Perhaps he is picking on a technicality in the bill. My understanding is that under the Liberal and NDP versions of justice in this country, people who burn down property should be eligible for a conditional sentence.

I noticed that the member did not mention anything about the fact that for people who break into other people's homes, for theft over $5,000 or auto theft, he had no problem with those individuals perhaps serving those sentences in the comfort of their own living rooms.

The Liberals and NDP just do not get it when it comes to crime. Canadians have had enough and they have said as much. One of the major reasons they elected a new government on January 23 was because they knew it was time to get tough on crime. Canadians want the Liberals and the NDP to stop dragging their feet and pass these important bills, bills that will improve the safety of our streets and communities.

I would like everyone who is listening at home to notice there was no mention whatsoever that persons who commit break and enters and car thieves should not be allowed to serve their sentences in the comfort of their own living rooms. That is the hon. member's view. It is not the view of this government.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
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BQ

Luc Malo

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Luc Malo (Verchères—Les Patriotes, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, at the beginning of his speech, the hon. member for Palliser waved his arms about and told us that the Liberals, NDP and Bloc Québécois are making a mistake by not supporting this bill. I believe that the majority of the members of this House do not support this bill simply because it is a bad bill.

Most certainly, the Bloc Québécois does not support it because we base our position on what is happening in Quebec. When it come to justice in Quebec, we consider rehabilitation to be the most important thing, and this works. Proof lies in the fact that the crime rate in Quebec is lower than in Canada or the United States.

I wonder if the hon. member for Palliser believes in rehabilitation. Even more so, I wonder and I will put the question to the hon. member, although he says he wants our streets to be safer, why does the government, the Conservative Party wish to allow weapons to circulate freely and with no control on our streets?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
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CPC

Dave Batters

Conservative

Mr. Dave Batters

Mr. Speaker, my friend opposite knows that is not the case. This government has actually introduced mandatory minimum penalties for crimes committed with firearms. We believe in effective gun control measures. What we do not believe in is a $2 billion boondoggle registry that did not prevent one crime or save one life.

The member opposite talked about the majority of this House. For the people watching this debate at home, that will be one of the reasons that more Conservative members will be coming to this place. We, on this side of the House, believe in rehabilitation of offenders as well, but in Bill C-27, we are talking about two dozen people in the country, the absolute worst of the worst, people convicted of multiple heinous crimes, people like Peter Whitmore in Saskatchewan who has multiple sexual offences against children. We are talking about putting the onus on those individuals and giving them an indeterminate sentence of seven years.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
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NDP

Bill Siksay

New Democratic Party

Mr. Bill Siksay (Burnaby—Douglas, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, the bluster from the member is quite something when we all know that right now it is possible to declare somebody a dangerous offender the first time they commit a heinous crime of the kind he is describing. The bill does not really add anything to protect Canadians. If someone is a dangerous offender, that is possible.

In my riding there is a group of dedicated, grass roots organizers and volunteers who believe in restorative justice programs. They have organized a youth restorative justice program. They are called the Burnaby Restorative Action Group, BRAG. They cannot get money from any level of government to assist them in that important work.

We all know that restorative justice programs work, that they reduce crime, that they bring offenders and victims together, that they resolve the problems and that they take the responsibility of solving the kinds of problems that led to crime in our cities, communities and neighbours very seriously. Here is a group of dedicated volunteers that cannot get one penny of assistance from the federal government to set that kind of program up, to run it and operate it effectively. I would ask the member if that is appropriate.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
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CPC

Dave Batters

Conservative

Mr. Dave Batters

Mr. Speaker, this is certainly not bluster. This legislation has received the support of victims' rights groups across the country, as well as the Canadian Professional Police Association. Our new government's stance is in step with the opinion of the vast majority of Canadians that serious crime must equal serious time. It is high time we started looking at crime and punishment through the eyes of victims instead of criminals.

The member mentioned an association in his riding called BRAG. He should take that up with the Minister of Justice on another day. Today we are talking about locking up indefinitely the 24 most dangerous people in this country.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
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CPC

Gary Goodyear

Conservative

Mr. Gary Goodyear (Cambridge, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, unlike members opposite, I will not stoop so low as to call members of this House deceitful. A colleague of my friend opposite was not being deceitful. He probably did not read the bill and was not prepared. He made a promise during the election with no intention to keep it and, therefore, felt no need to be prepared.

This bill deals with primary designated offences, offences committed, not once or twice, but three times. We are talking about sexual interference, incest, murder and kidnapping. Unlike what the member opposite suggested, kidnapping does not require a beyond a reasonable doubt defence. I am not suggesting members opposite were being deceitful. I just do not think they are prepared. Given that there is no requirement for a beyond a reasonable doubt defence, it is a balance of probabilities. There is still an opportunity for a judge to intervene in this case.

I would just like to ask the hon. member if he agrees that this is on a balance of probabilities, not on a beyond a reasonable doubt, as was indicated by members opposite who are not properly prepared.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
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CPC

Dave Batters

Conservative

Mr. Dave Batters

Mr. Speaker, a comment was made earlier by a member opposite about arson of a dwelling house being removed from Bill C-9. He should have been prepared when he came to the House. The truth is that it is taken out if someone is in their home when it is burnt down. However, if people are not in their homes when someone burns it down, the Liberal and NDP members think the arsonist should be able to serve his or her sentence in the comfort of his or her own living room. The member should have known that before coming into the House.

To answer the hon. member's question, the Minister of Justice has been very successful in striking an appropriate balance. We need to keep in mind that these people have already been convicted and certainly this law will--

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
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CPC

Royal Galipeau

Conservative

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Royal Galipeau)

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe--Bagot.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
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BQ

Yvan Loubier

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Yvan Loubier (Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak on this bill. I may not be a lawyer, but I have enough brains to read bills. I can tell whether a bill is in tune or not with the reality. My 13 years of experience as a member of Parliament and lawmaker in this place have taught me the difference between good bills and bills that do nothing for society in Quebec or Canada.

Bill C-27 before us does strictly nothing to help fight crime, reduce crime or discourage potential criminals from offending. This is a totally pointless bill which does not meet these objectives.

I listened earlier to the hon. member from the Conservative Party according to whom being against this bill is to be against the victims of crime. What demagoguery.

Bills like this, which do no good, may in fact interfere with the normal court process. Judging by the experience of the Americans in recent years, after they introduced similar legislation, this is the kind of bill that can hamper crime-fighting efforts instead of providing additional tools to fight crime. No study has shown that this three strikes and you are out policy can do any good.

In the United States, where the crime rate is the highest in the world, experience has shown in recent years that having that kind of policy in place does not make the crime rate go down. There are mostly studies that establish a connection between the likelihood of reoffending and the length of incarceration. That is the exact opposite of what we have just heard in relation to this bill.

In addition, this bill ignores a basic legal principle: the presumption of innocence. Even before a criminal commits another offence, he has to prove that he is not a dangerous offender and that he should not be incarcerated indefinitely. The offender has the burden of proof. I do not believe that giving an individual such a responsibility in the justice system is the right approach or that it is in keeping with the principle that every individual should be given a chance. This reverse onus is not in the tradition of British law, except in certain specific cases, such as proceeds of crime.

Recently, through the efforts of the Bloc Québécois, we passed a bill under which, after being convicted, an individual who has taken part in organized crime activities must prove that he acquired all his property legally: the Mercedes, the house, the secondary residence. This type of exception is what we should have, when we look at all the organized crime rings.

Opération printemps 2001 showed us what it cost in legal resources and tax dollars to prove that all the property belonging to the Nomads, Hells Angels and other organized crime rings had been acquired illegally.

When we look at this bill, we can see that it can even undermine the legal process. I was listening to my Conservative colleague earlier. He said that he had received calls from his constituents asking him why we should wait for the third time before declaring someone a dangerous offender and incarcerating that person indefinitely.

I would ask him the same question in reverse.

Why wait for the third offence when today, depending on the seriousness and brutality of a crime, a crown prosecutor can ask that someone be declared a dangerous offender after the first crime?

It is not necessary to wait for the third time. If the first crime is particularly brutal, the crown prosecutor can ask that the individual be declared a dangerous offender. The judge may grant the request and declare the individual a dangerous offender after the first offence.

Why wait for the third offence to be committed when, in the current system, with the flexibility afforded lawyers and judges, we can use intelligence and discernment to determine, right from the first offence, if rehabilitation is possible based on the nature, seriousness and brutality of a crime?

I said earlier that the United States experimented with this type of policy. Their prisons are full. It has been said that the Prime Minister is a carbon copy of George W. Bush. The government wishes to copy the Americans not only in military and economic policies, and support for oil companies, for example, but also in the changes it wants to make to the current justice and correctional systems in place in Canada.

In the United States, prisons are bursting at the seams. The rate of incarceration is sevenfold that in Canada. Yet, even with a policy of “three crimes makes a dangerous offender”, the US homicide rate is triple that in Canada and four times greater than Quebec's rate. That must mean something. When a system does not work, for example in the United States—a country with one of the highest rates of criminalization—we must not copy that system and we should try something else. We must not duplicate the American system. To make themselves look good, the Conservatives have introduced this type of legislation while acting as though they alone can guarantee the safety of individuals, the prosecution of criminals to the bitter end, as though they alone will ensure that justice is served in this country. This is a completely twisted claim with respect to the discourse and the content of the bill.

As lawmakers, we bear enormous responsibility. This responsibility certainly includes the treatment of victims, both the past victims and potential victims of criminals. We need to look after them, but to do so, we need to have the right tools. In the last 10 years, serious crime in Canada has gone down. So they should not come to us with just the 2004-05 data and say that the situation is absolutely frightful and so terrible that something must be done. Certainly it should, but not through measures that are out of touch with reality, like these.

We need real action, but that is not what the Conservatives are offering. It is just the appearance of action. They want to show that they made some political promises that made no sense at all during the last election campaign, including this policy of three crimes equals a dangerous offender. So they introduce this bill. I cannot make head or tail of it. It has no relation to reality and adds nothing. It does not add any tools for fighting serious crime in Canada.

Among the things that should be done—but which they have not done—is the essential tool of firearms control. We just received the most recent data from Statistics Canada. We are not making this up; it is Statistics Canada. It tells us that Quebec and Prince Edward Island have crime rates that are much lower than the rest of Canada. The city with the highest crime rates and most serious crimes is Edmonton. Calgary takes second place. That is significant.

When people come from a region where the crime rate is the highest, could they not be a little bit more intelligent and find some way to deal with crime? Firearms control and the firearms registry are what we need. Yesterday, for example, they were saying on the news that 80% of the crimes in Edmonton were committed with unregistered firearms. Therefore, 20% of the arms were registered. Is that not a sign that controls should be tightened? We need to have a well managed registry.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
Permalink
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Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
Permalink

November 9, 2006