June 18, 2015

CPC

Andrew Scheer

Conservative

The Speaker

I would sincerely like to thank the government House leader, the opposition House leader, and the member for Beauséjour for the very kind words offered to me and the rest of the Chairs and clerks.

The job of the Chair is often difficult, and I sometimes think that House leaders and whips think up new ways to make it difficult. However, we have been blessed with a very experienced team of clerks. I can tell members that when taking over the position of Speaker, I was immediately struck by their wisdom, experience, and the confidence that they gave me. In coming up with rulings and decisions, I felt very sure because of the very wise points of view and the wide experience that they all have.

I too would like to add my thanks and best wishes to Audrey O'Brien. I wish her all the best and hope to see her back. Along those lines, I thank Marc Bosc for stepping in and providing an unbroken continuity of service to the House as well as for his professionalism.

I thank all the table officers and pages and all the people around the Hill who make the House of Commons the most wonderful place to work in the world.

I want to sincerely thank all those who work in the House for us, the members, and for Canadians, in order to ensure that our House is the best workplace in the world to serve Canadians.

On a point of order, the hon. member for Parkdale—High Park.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of the House
Sub-subtopic:   Business of the House
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NDP

Peggy Nash

New Democratic Party

Ms. Peggy Nash

Mr. Speaker, there have been consultations between the parties, and in the spirit of collegiality that is blossoming in this House, I hope you will find unanimous consent for the following motion: that the House note that July 6, 2015, will mark the 80th birthday of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama; recall the Dalai Lama's status as a Nobel Prize laureate and as one of only five honorary Canadian citizens; recognize the Dalai Lama's religious and personal leadership of the Tibetan people and Tibetan Buddhists worldwide; and acknowledge the Dalai Lama's championing of human rights and respect for all living creatures, his desire for Tibetans to live freely and peacefully and with autonomy within the People's Republic of China, and his advocacy of a middle-way approach to conflict resolution based on non-violence, compromise, and dialogue.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of the House
Sub-subtopic:   Business of the House
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CPC

Andrew Scheer

Conservative

The Speaker

Does the hon. member have the unanimous consent of the House to propose this motion?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of the House
Sub-subtopic:   Business of the House
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?

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of the House
Sub-subtopic:   Business of the House
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LIB

Irwin Cotler

Liberal

Hon. Irwin Cotler (Mount Royal, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a question of privilege out of respect for the integrity of Parliament, as you yourself have put it, and I want to join in the commendation to you, your staff, and the clerks for all that has been done. I join in the referencing of that by my predecessor speakers.

I am rising, I must say, somewhat hesitantly because of the lateness of the period, but I am doing so in the hope, as even the House leader mentioned, of the enhancement of the democratic process. In particular, I rise today on a question of privilege related to the government's response to a question on the order paper, Question No. 1229, which became accessible online only on Tuesday. I gave notice to the chair yesterday, and thus I am raising this matter at the earliest opportunity and regret that it is close to the end of our proceedings.

Mr. Speaker, I know that you and your predecessors have often made clear that the Chair is not empowered to adjudicate the quality or accuracy of responses to written questions. Indeed, that is not the issue I am raising, despite the fact that the government's response to Question No. 1229 all but ignored the question it purported to answer.

Indeed, the issue I raise is the violation of a Standing Order of the House, namely, Standing Order 39(1), which clearly states the following in reference to questions on the order paper:

...in putting any such question or in replying to the same no argument or opinion is to be offered, nor any facts stated, except so far as may be necessary to explain the same; and in answering any such question the matter to which the same refers shall not be debated.

This is a Standing Order to which you, Mr. Speaker, have yourself referred on previous occasions, such as on January 29, 2013, when you said, “as Speaker, I have a duty to remind the House that our written question process is intended to be free of argument and debate”, and it is in that context that I rise on this question of privilege.

This point, indeed, is emphasized in the House of Commons Procedure and Practice, second edition, which states, on page 522:

The guidelines that apply to the form and content of written questions are also applicable to the answers provided by the government. As such, no argument or opinion is to be given and only the information needed to respond to the question is to be provided in an effort to maintain the process of written questions as an exchange of information rather than an opportunity for debate.

Indeed, the only particular constraint placed by the Standing Orders on the content of responses to order paper questions is that they may not contain opinion or debate, yet the answer I received this week to Question No. 1229 was comprised almost exclusively of opinion and debate.

Hon. members rely on the written question system, and I have been pleased to be able to use it, to obtain the information we need to represent our constituents, to hold the government to account, and to engage subsequently in informed study of legislation and policy. Thus, the violation by the government of Standing Order 39(1), which has become a regrettable pattern, undermines the written question system and impedes the ability of hon. members to do our jobs.

On page 84 of O'Brien and Bosc, a list of instances found by the United Kingdom Joint Committee on Parliamentary Privilege to constitute contempt specifically includes, “acting in breach of any orders of the House”. Thus, I am asking to regard the government's response to Question No. 1229 as constitutive of contempt of Parliament.

With Question No. 1229, I sought detailed information regarding the funding of programs that facilitate the reintegration of offenders into society after they have served their sentences. The government's response, which, as I say, hardly deals with the question at all, begins, “Mr. Speaker, the government believes”. This construction necessarily leads to a statement of opinion, and the very inclusion of the government's beliefs in response to a written question contravenes the Standing Order. Therefore, the Standing Orders have been violated five words into the response.

The response goes on to make claims about the importance and efficiency of government measures, but regardless of the accuracy of those claims, they constitute debate and are thus not permitted in the context of an order paper question response.

As private members, if we include a statement of belief in the text of a written question, or if we engage in debate, we are quickly contacted by the private members' business office and instructed to amend the text and limit our inquiry to a request for factual information, which is, of course, the express purpose of the written question system.

In fact, as O'Brien and Bosc note on page 520 of House of Commons Procedure and Practice, not only are members barred from including expressions of opinion in our questions, we are prohibited from requesting the government's opinion, and the Clerk of the House “has full authority” to ensure our compliance.

It is the Speaker, however, who is vested with the authority to ensure that the government complies with the Standing Orders when responding to questions, and in fact, if the government includes its opinion in its answer, it is providing material that members are specifically prohibited from seeking, again in violation of Standing Order 39(1).

Briefly, it is important to note that this use or misuse of the written question system is not so much a personal breach on the part, in this instance, of the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, who provided the response to Question No. 1229 and for whom I have a great deal of respect, as it is a regrettable pattern on the part of the government in general.

For example, the government's recent response to Question No. 1093 includes the phrase, “The Government of Canada rejects the argument”, and if one is rejecting an argument, one is, by definition, engaging in debate. The response to Question No. 773 again featured the construction, “The government believes”, and the response to Question No. 721 references the government's lack of “desire” to reinstate a particular program.

While the government's desires and beliefs are undoubtedly a matter of interest to Canadians and to hon. members, they do not belong in responses to order paper questions, just as the desires and beliefs of us as private members do not belong in the written questions we pose.

As you noted in your ruling on January 29, 2013, Mr. Speaker:

it is expected under our practice that the integrity of the written question process be maintained by avoiding questions or answers that stray from the underlying principle of information exchange.

I know, and with this I close, that at this late date in the parliamentary calendar, there may not be time for a prima facie finding of contempt to be referred to committee and for such a referral to proceed according to usual practice.

However, I raise this matter, and admittedly regrettably so at this late date in Parliament, but without an option otherwise, because we only received the answers recently, out of concern for the health of our parliamentary process, out of respect for the Standing Orders of this House, and out of concern for, as you yourself have put it, “the integrity of the written question process”, which is an essential tool for us as parliamentarians.

I ask that you protect the integrity of this process by finding that the government's response to Question No. 1229 is in breach of Standing Order 39(1), and I hope that when the House returns in the fall, hon. members from all parties will work together to strengthen parliamentary processes, such as the written question system, which underpin the vitality of our democracy.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Privilege
Sub-subtopic:   Question on the Order Paper
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CPC

John Duncan

Conservative

Hon. John Duncan (Minister of State and Chief Government Whip, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, we would like to reserve the right to respond for a very short time. As you know, right now we are torn between the royal assent procedure and process, so we will be responding today very shortly.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Privilege
Sub-subtopic:   Question on the Order Paper
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CPC

Andrew Scheer

Conservative

The Speaker

I thank the hon. member for Mount Royal for raising this issue, and of course, we all look forward to the response from the government side.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Privilege
Sub-subtopic:   Question on the Order Paper
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CPC

Andrew Scheer

Conservative

The Speaker

I wish to inform the House that because of the deferred recorded division, government orders will be extended by 22 minutes.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Life Means Life Act
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CPC

Peter MacKay

Conservative

Hon. Peter MacKay (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, CPC)

moved that Bill C-53, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Life Means Life Act
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CPC

Bob Dechert

Conservative

Mr. Bob Dechert (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, as we are approaching the end of the session, I would just like to take this opportunity to thank the people of Mississauga—Erindale for the extraordinary privilege they have given me to represent them, since 2008, in this place. I hope to earn their trust again and return here in the fall. I look forward to seeing all of my colleagues here when I do.

I rise today to speak in support of Bill C-53, the life means life act. By eliminating parole eligibility for high treason and for the most heinous murders, the criminal law amendments in this bill would ensure that the worst offenders spend their entire lives in prison.

The reforms in Bill C-53 grew out of the commitment made by our government in last fall's Speech from the Throne to amend the sentencing laws to ensure that a life sentence means a sentence for life for the most dangerous criminals.

I predict that these proposals will be welcomed by the public as another important step by our government to protect Canadians from the most violent and incorrigible offenders. I also predict that they will be strongly welcomed by the families and loved ones of murder victims, who, under the laws that now stand, run the risk of being re-traumatized every time the offenders responsible for their losses apply for parole.

In that respect, I think of Sharon Rosenfeldt, the mother of one of Clifford Olson's victims, who, along with her family, had to go to parole hearings every two years, under the old faint hope clause regime, to hear Clifford Olson tell them why he should be released. They had to relive the trauma of losing their son every two years, time and time again.

In this respect, Bill C-53 would complement other victim-oriented measures sponsored by our government, such as Bill C-32, the Victims Bill of Rights Act. A key purpose of both Bill C-53 and Bill C-32 is to prevent those who have already been victimized by criminals from being re-victimized by the criminal justice system.

As I mentioned, the reforms set out in Bill C-53 target high treason and certain forms of murder. Both offences are currently subject to a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment, with the right to apply for parole after a set period of time in custody.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Life Means Life Act
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A message was delivered by the Usher of the Black Rod as follows: Mr. Speaker, His Excellency the Governor General desires the immediate attendance of this honourable House in the chamber of the honourable the Senate. Accordingly, the Speaker with the House went up to the Senate chamber. And being returned:


CPC

Andrew Scheer

Conservative

The Speaker

I have the honour to inform the House that when the House did attend His Excellency the Governor General in the Senate Chamber, His Excellency was pleased to give, in Her Majesty's name, the royal assent to the following bills:

Bill C-247, An Act to expand the mandate of Service Canada in respect of the death of a Canadian citizen or Canadian resident—Chapter 15.

Bill C-452, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (exploitation and trafficking in persons)—Chapter 16.

Bill C-591, An Act to amend the Canada Pension Plan and the Old Age Security Act (pension and benefits)—Chapter 17.

Bill S-3, An Act to amend the Coastal Fisheries Protection Act—Chapter 18.

Bill S-6, An Act to amend the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act and the Nunavut Waters and Nunavut Surface Rights Tribunal Act—Chapter 19.

Bill C-51, An Act to enact the Security of Canada Information Sharing Act and the Secure Air Travel Act, to amend the Criminal Code, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts—Chapter 20.

Bill C-46, An Act to amend the National Energy Board Act and the Canada Oil and Gas Operations Act—Chapter 21.

Bill C-2, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act,—Chapter 22.

Bill C-26, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Canada Evidence Act and the Sex Offender Information Registration Act, to enact the High Risk Child Sex Offender Database Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts—Chapter 23.

Bill C-63, An Act to give effect to the Déline Final Self-Government Agreement and to make consequential and related amendments to other Acts—Chapter 24.

Bill C-66, An Act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of money for the federal public administration for the financial year ending March 31, 2016—Chapter 25.

Bill C-67, An Act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of money for the federal public administration for the financial year ending March 31, 2016—Chapter 26.

Bill C-42, An Act to amend the Firearms Act and the Criminal Code and to make a related amendment and a consequential amendment to other Acts—Chapter 27.

Bill C-555, An Act respecting the Marine Mammal Regulations (seal fishery observation licence)—Chapter 28.

Bill S-7, An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the Civil Marriage Act and the Criminal Code and to make consequential amendments to other Acts—Chapter 29.

Bill C-12, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act—Chapter 30.

Bill C-52, An Act to amend the Canada Transportation Act and the Railway Safety Act—Chapter 31.

Bill S-4, An Act to amend the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act and to make a consequential amendment to another Act—Chapter 32.

Bill S-2, An Act to amend the Statutory Instruments Act and to make consequential amendments to the Statutory Instruments Regulations—Chapter 33.

Topic:   Royal Assent
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The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-53, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.


CPC

Bob Dechert

Conservative

Mr. Bob Dechert (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, it is not every day one's speech gets interrupted by the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod, so I consider that just one of the many privileges of working in this place.

As I was saying, the seriousness of high treason speaks for itself. At present, anyone convicted of this offence must spend 25 years in custody before being able to apply for parole.

As for the offence of murder, hon. members may recall from past debates that murder is either in the first or the second degree, depending on the offender's level of moral blameworthiness in committing the crime. Murder in the first degree is the most morally blameworthy and has the most severe penalty. That penalty is currently life imprisonment with the requirement that the offender serve a minimum of 25 years in custody before being eligible to apply for parole.

The classic example of first degree murder is a premeditated or cold-blooded murder. Technically referred to in the Criminal Code as a “planned and deliberate” killing, this type of calculated homicide is treated more severely than impulsive and unplanned killings that may occur in the heat of the moment or under the influence of powerful emotions and that may be followed by feelings of remorse once the killer's passions have subsided.

These unplanned, impulsive murders are classified as being in the second degree and, while also punishable by life imprisonment, are subject to a 10-year mandatory minimum period during which the offender is barred from applying for parole.

Given the lower level of moral blameworthiness typically associated with second degree murder, it is not surprising that second degree murderers are more susceptible to rehabilitation and are paroled at a significantly higher rate than first degree murderers.

That being said, not all second degree murderers are the same. Some may exhibit a greater degree of moral blameworthiness, even up to the level of planned and deliberate first degree murderers. For this reason, courts have the discretion to increase the length of time during which a second degree murderer is barred from applying for parole from 10 years all the way up to 25 years.

In making such decisions, courts have to take into consideration the criteria set out in section 745.4 of the Criminal Code, namely, the character of the offender, the nature of the offence, the circumstances surrounding its commission, and the recommendation made by a jury. Courts are very familiar with these criteria and do not hesitate to extend the parole ineligibility period of second degree murderers where warranted.

A good example is offered by the case of Robert Pickton, who murdered several women on his British Columbia pig farm. In the absence of proof of planning and deliberation, he was convicted of second degree murder but subjected by the court to a 25-year parole ineligibility period under section 745.4.

However, some forms of second degree murder are so egregious that Parliament has seen fit to remove all discretion from the courts and to require that such murderers serve a mandatory minimum 25-year period of parole ineligibility.

There are two ways in which Parliament has chosen to do this. The first way is by deeming a number of abhorrent types of second degree murders to be in the first degree and therefore subject to a mandatory minimum period of parole ineligibility of 25 years.

The categories of second degree murders deemed to be in the first degree are listed in section 231 of the Criminal Code and include the murder of police, correctional officials, or someone working in a prison; murder in the course of a sexual assault or a kidnapping-related offence, including kidnapping, forcible confinement, hijacking, or hostage-taking; and murder in the course of carrying out a terrorist activity, which includes actions inspired by political, religious, or ideological causes.

The second way that Parliament has chosen to ensure an appropriate parole ineligibility period for egregious second degree murders is to stipulate that the mandatory minimum period is 25 years instead of 10 years. Section 745 of the Criminal Code makes explicit reference to two situations where Parliament has concluded that nothing short of 25 years would be appropriate. They are second degree murder where the murderer has been convicted on a prior occasion of murder, and second degree murder where the murderer has been convicted on a prior occasion of an intentional killing under the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act.

Subjecting these two categories of second degree murder to the penalty for first degree murder reflects the higher level of moral blameworthiness associated with repeat killing, genocide, and other war crimes.

Before I go on to describe the proposals in Bill C-53, I ask hon. members to bear in mind this brief overview of the current murder sentencing regime, as it will assist in understanding both the extent of the changes I am proposing as well as the philosophical basis for them.

I would be remiss if I did not also recall for hon. members the major amendments to the Criminal Code that our government has already brought about in order to bring greater transparency and greater proportionality to the murder sentencing regime.

In terms of transparency, hon. members will recall that in 2011 our government saw to it that the Criminal Code faint hope clause was effectively repealed by former Bill S-6, which came into force on December 2, 2011. I was on the justice committee at that time and, incredibly, I remember the Liberal justice critic of the day stating very clearly that the Liberal Party, if it were ever to form a government again, would bring back the faint hope clause. I certainly hope that is not the current policy of the Liberal Party, but I suspect it may still be the case.

Everyone who commits murder after that date will now have to serve the full parole ineligibility period stipulated by the Criminal Code instead of being able to seek early parole after serving only 15 years in custody. Importantly, former Bill S-6 also imposed stringent new conditions on already-convicted murderers who retain a continuing right to apply for faint hope.

In 2011, Parliament also passed former Bill C-48, the Protecting Canadians by Ending Sentence Discounts for Multiple Murders Act. This government bill amended the Criminal Code to allow courts to impose a sentence proportionate to the harm caused by multiple murderers by imposing periods of parole ineligibility, one for each of their victims, which must be served consecutively.

This helps to ensure that the time actually served in custody by multiple murderers corresponds to the heinous nature of their crimes. In such cases, courts are using criteria identical to those I mentioned earlier in the context of section 745.4 of the Criminal Code.

The provisions in former Bill C-48 were most recently applied in the case of Justin Bourque, the offender who was recently sentenced to life imprisonment with an overall parole ineligibility period of 75 years for the ambush murder of three RCMP officers in Moncton, New Brunswick. We just honoured their memory on the first anniversary of that date a few days ago.

The proposals in Bill C-53 are another step in the continuing efforts of our government to ensure the safety and security of Canadians. They also build on the earlier measures contained in former Bill S-6 and Bill C-48, by bringing greater transparency and proportionality to the sentencing regime for high treason and for murder.

If passed in law, the measures proposed in Bill C-53 would mean that for the worst of the worst offenders a life sentence of imprisonment would mean exactly that, life in prison as opposed to a life in the community under a grant of parole. In so doing, this sentence would constitute punishment that truly reflects the severity of the crimes.

Canadians are too often perplexed to discover that life sentences of imprisonment do not necessarily mean that the offender remains confined for life, nor is the public ready to accept the prospect that offenders convicted of the most shocking and monstrous crimes on the books may be released into the very communities in which they committed their crimes and where the families and loved ones of the victims may still reside.

In response to this concerns, we are proposing in Bill C-53 to amend the Criminal Code, the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, and a number of other statutes to authorize the mandatory and discretionary sentences of life imprisonment without parole as follows.

First, a sentence of life imprisonment without parole would be mandatory for both high treason and planned and deliberate first degree murder committed in either the course of a sexual assault, kidnapping-related, or terrorist offence, or where the victim is a police officer or correctional official; or where the murderer's behaviour is of such a brutal nature as to compel the conclusion that he or she is unlikely to be inhibited by normal standards of behavioural restraint in the future.

As hon. members can see, the proposals prescribe a mandatory sentence of life without parole for a fairly narrow class of what are truly heinous crimes. Who among us, for example, would argue that premeditated murder committed in a particularly brutal way or in the course of a kidnapping, sexual assault, or terrorist act are not among the most reprehensible of killings?

In this context, the Supreme Court of Canada has affirmed in a long line of decisions that, where murder is committed by individuals who are already abusing their power by illegally dominating another, the offenders' level of moral blameworthiness is extremely high and merits the most severe punishment under Canadian law.

Before I go on to discuss the proposals in Bill C-53 for discretionary sentences of life without parole, allow me to expand a bit on the requirement for conduct of a “brutal nature" as one of the criteria for imposing a mandatory sentence of life without parole.

This wording was carefully chosen. It is a test currently used in the Criminal Code dangerous offender regime to determine whether an offender who has committed a very serious offence should be sentenced to indefinite detention.

As hon. members may be aware, a sentence of indefinite detention under the dangerous offender provisions is similar to a sentence of life imprisonment; the essential difference being the shorter seven-year parole ineligibility period imposed on dangerous offenders.

Bill C-53 would propose to import the legal test of conduct of a brutal nature into the sentencing regime for heinous murders because it would provide an intelligible standard that is familiar to the courts and is currently used to predict an offender's prospects of becoming a law-abiding member of society in the future.

Let there be no doubt that all murders are terrible offences, deserving of life imprisonment. Nonetheless, I think we can all agree that some murders are carried out in ways that aggravate the already terrible nature of this crime and require a correspondingly more severe penalty.

Hon. members, these are stringent criteria to define the most dangerous criminals and to ensure the mandatory imposition of life without parole is proportionate to the harm caused by such offenders and to the need to protect Canadians from the danger they pose.

As I mentioned earlier, Bill C-53 also proposes to authorize the courts to use their discretion to impose a sentence of life without parole in other situations in which the level of moral blameworthiness of the offender may rise to a level that merits this penalty. Courts would be authorized to make this determination for the following three categories of murder: one, planned and deliberate first degree murder; two, second degree murder that has been deemed under section 231 of the Criminal Code to be in the first degree; and three, second degree murder under section 745 of the Criminal Code where the murderer was previously convicted of murder or of an intentional killing under the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act.

In exercising their discretion in these situations, courts would use criteria identical to those I mentioned earlier in the context of section 745.4 and the multiple murder provisions of the Criminal Code; namely, the character of the offender, the nature and circumstances of the murder, and any recommendation by the jurors.

Earlier, I asked hon. members to bear in mind the brief overview of the murder sentencing regime that I provided at the outset of my remarks. All three of the categories of murder that I just mentioned as being eligible for the discretionary imposition of life without parole under Bill C-53 are precisely the murder categories that Parliament has already recognized as exhibiting an elevated level of moral blameworthiness meriting the most severe penalty available under Canadian law.

Bill C-53 simply proposes to allow courts to exercise their discretion using criteria with which they are already familiar to ensure that the most dangerous among them are never released to endanger Canadians again.

Hon. members, from one perspective, Bill C-53 is a made-in-Canada proposal that would build upon the precedent of past sentencing initiatives that are now established features of the sentencing regime for high treason and murder.

However, from another perspective, it would also align Canada with other western democracies that have seen fit to include life sentences without parole as part of their sentencing regimes. Sentences of life without parole for murder are available in almost all states and territories in Australia, in New Zealand, in nine European countries, including England, and in nearly every jurisdiction in the United States.

In all these jurisdictions, release from lifelong incarceration is available through acts of executive clemency informed by their respective constitutional values. Bill C-53 proposes no less in the Canadian context.

Although my colleague the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness will no doubt have more to add on this subject, allow me to note that Bill C-53 contemplates the possibility of conditional release of offenders sentenced to life without parole on an exceptional basis after they have served at least 35 years in custody.

Although parole would not be available to such offenders, after 35 years in custody, they might apply to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, who would consider whether release could be justified on humanitarian or compassionate grounds or because the purpose and objectives of sentencing have been met.

The minister, who would be able to seek the expert advice of the Parole Board of Canada, would then forward the application to the Governor in Council with his or her recommendation. If released by the Governor in Council, the offender would be subject to stringent conditions, breach of which would lead to re-incarceration.

Allow me to close my remarks by noting that the measures proposed by Bill C-53 have been carefully crafted to identify the most dangerous and incorrigible offenders who have committed the most egregious crimes.

I urge all hon. members, therefore, to consider the merits of these fair and balanced reforms and to commit today to the people of Canada that they will see that this legislation is passed when Parliament resumes following the next election.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Life Means Life Act
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CPC

Bruce Stanton

Conservative

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bruce Stanton)

Before continuing with questions and comments, 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 Saanich—Gulf Islands, The Environment; the hon. member for Charlottetown, Telecommunications.

Resuming questions and comments, the hon. member for Gatineau.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Life Means Life Act
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NDP

Françoise Boivin

New Democratic Party

Ms. Françoise Boivin (Gatineau, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, I am going to ask my colleague two short questions, because the importance he attaches to Bill C-53 and the moment chosen to introduce it appear to be rather contradictory.

If the government thought this bill was so important in terms of public safety and its commitments toward certain groups of Canadian citizens, and not just in terms of politics pure and simple, why did it wait until possibly one of the last days to begin debate on it?

I seem to recall that back in 2001 the member for Central Nova, who is now the Minister of Justice, warned against putting these kinds of operational decisions into the hands of politicians. I am referring to the public safety minister of the day 35 years from now and probably more who would have to review somebody's case. That is why the expert non-partisan Parole Board was created in the first place, to make sure decisions were based on public safety, not politics.

Why is the government now proposing to go back in time and do exactly what its own justice minister advised against?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Life Means Life Act
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CPC

Bob Dechert

Conservative

Mr. Bob Dechert

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity, given that we are so close to the end of the session, to say that I have enjoyed working with the hon. member for the last two years on the justice committee. I think that we have done a lot of good things together for the Canadian people.

With respect to her first question, she will remember that earlier today during question period, the Minister of Justice mentioned that this government has passed over 30 justice bills. That is something to be aware of, to acknowledge, and to be proud of. I certainly am proud. I think we have rebalanced the criminal justice system between the rights of the accused and the rights of the victims and we are paying much more attention to the rights of the victims, which is as it should be. It is what my constituents wish us to do. When they see a heinous murderer, a murderer who kidnaps and sexually exploits and murders a small child, they want that person to be put away essentially for life. They want a life sentence to mean natural life. If that does not happen and they see that person back on the street, even if it is 25 years down the road, they lose faith in our justice system. With respect to the release, I think that the people of Canada want an individual who is accountable to them and to Parliament, such as the Minister of Public Safety, to make the decision on when to release those most heinous murderers who deserve a full life sentence.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Life Means Life Act
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LIB

Sean Casey

Liberal

Mr. Sean Casey (Charlottetown, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, my question is along the same vein. There are serious problems with this bill, but the most glaring one is the one which was just pointed out by the member for Gatineau, and that is the politicization of the question of release of the worst of the worst offenders.

The parliamentary secretary was there when we had representatives from the Parole Board testify in connection with a private member's bill that has the same objective as this piece of government legislation and he will recall the testimony from the representatives of the Parole Board.

What is it about these very serious crimes that make the Parole Board so uniquely unqualified to determine the parole eligibility and conditions of those who are charged with them, so uniquely unqualified that it must be placed in the hands of an elected official? Also, what is it about the education, training and experience of the Minister of Public Safety as a professional engineer that makes him so uniquely qualified to stand in judgment in these cases?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Life Means Life Act
Permalink
CPC

Bob Dechert

Conservative

Mr. Bob Dechert

Mr. Speaker, I would like to acknowledge and thank the hon. member for his work on the justice committee.

The answer to his question is simply that when Canadian people see these kinds of heinous murders committed, they want the individuals to get life sentences, meaning that these people will be in prison for life. These are dangerous people who should not be back on the street.

The Minister of Public Safety can always seek the advice of the Parole Board, but there have been cases where people have been released who Canadians think should have been kept incarcerated. We believe these people should be in prison for their natural lives, and in the one circumstance where, after 35 years, as a question of proportionality, they are allowed to seek release, that release should be in the hands of the elected official who is accountable to the people, just as it is, for example, in the United States with the clemency provisions that the President of the United States has.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Life Means Life Act
Permalink
CPC

Rick Norlock

Conservative

Mr. Rick Norlock (Northumberland—Quinte West, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I am glad the parliamentary secretary mentioned other democratic jurisdictions in which elected officials provide clemency and have oversight. I can think of governors in various states in the United States, et cetera. This is not a new precedent that we are creating.

We know that this law will be in the Criminal Code with regard to conditional release, et cetera, and we know there will be different public safety ministers. The member across the way may demean someone because the person is an engineer, but that person could even be a lawyer, a former police officer, a former doctor, whatever. It is necessary.

I have been doing some research on this. In one of Clifford Olson's chances at parole, shall we say, in his parole application, he wrote a letter to the mother of one of the victims describing in detail how he abused her son before he killed him. Is this not the kind of person that this law refers to?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Life Means Life Act
Permalink

June 18, 2015