Elizabeth Shaughnessy COHEN

COHEN, Elizabeth Shaughnessy, B.A., M.A., LL.B.

Personal Data

Windsor--St. Clair (Ontario)
Birth Date
February 11, 1948
Deceased Date
December 9, 1998
barrister and solicitor, lawyer

Parliamentary Career

October 25, 1993 - April 27, 1997
  Windsor--St. Clair (Ontario)
June 2, 1997 - December 9, 1998
  Windsor--St. Clair (Ontario)

Most Recent Speeches (Page 35 of 39)

September 22, 1994

Ms. Shaughnessy Cohen (Windsor-St. Clair)

Mr. Speaker, I feel constrained to make a couple of comments on the content of the last address. There are some fundamental errors in terms of what information has been promulgated in that argument.

First of all, it is very important when discussing parole and the issue of when or whether someone might be paroled to understand that parole is, in effect, a community based continuation of the sentence. A person who commits first or second degree murder is sentenced to prison for life. If he or she subsequently is paroled, they continue serving their sentence in the community under the supervision of parole officials.

It is misleading to suggest that a person who receives parole after 15 years is suddenly absolved and walks away. There are limitations on that individual's behaviour which are set out under the terms of the parole. His or her life is supervised. They can no longer simply live wherever they want or associate with whomever they want. They have to report regularly.

That part of the system may have strained resources. There may be other ways to strengthen or improve that system, but a person who commits murder is punished for life by the combination of incarceration and ongoing community supervision. It is misleading to suggest there is any other structure that somehow absolves that person at the conclusion of their jail term.

I would also like to point out that a false example was given of the amendments which relate to crime which is affected as a result of hate. In the example the hon. member gave of a home invasion perpetrated against members of a particular ethnic group, there would not be an automatic increase in penalty, nor would the issue of the victim's race come into play unless the prosecutor could prove beyond a reasonable doubt to the satisfaction of the court that the crime itself was motivated by the hatred of a member of that group. To invade the home of a person of a particular ethnic group may not be motivated by hate. It may just have been the most convenient place to hit on that particular night.

It strikes me that the government is absolutely right in recognizing that crimes motivated by specific hatreds of race, of sexual orientation or any of the other specified classes is particularly heinous in our society.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
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September 22, 1994

Ms. Cohen

Mr. Speaker, I feel like I am going to a dance here. I thank the member opposite for allowing an opportunity to engage in this dialogue even though it is in a very structured environment.

I must say that I cannot think of very many acquaintances or friends who would want to open their houses to persons such as my friend is suggesting. However, it is not an idea that should be dismissed.

These are the types of creative ideas that I suggest this bill envisions. These amendments provide for great flexibility and versatility in terms of sentencing arrangements.

In Windsor, which is where I am from as members know I am sure by now, we have some very creative and excellent judges on our provincial court and our general division benches. Some have worked very hard to find alternative sentences within the limits of the current legislation.

As a result, we have seen in our community many community-based solutions that have been promulgated by those judges and by some programs and social workers whom we have in our community. The result is that we have had an opportunity in our community to look very closely at alternative sentencing structures.

This has been an eye opener for me as a criminal lawyer, both as prosecutor and as defence counsel. These have been very productive types of programs. I would suggest that my friend opposite has an idea that is worth exploring.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
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September 22, 1994

Ms. Shaughnessy Cohen (Windsor-St. Clair)

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-41 is yet another fulfilment of Liberal red book promises. It is part of this government's safe home, safe streets policy. This policy in connection with our plans and our actions in the direction of job creation and our fundamental respect for

human rights-I see the member to whom I was addressing my remarks is leaving in any event-gives Canadians the comfort of the quality-

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
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September 22, 1994

Ms. Cohen

Mr. Speaker, these policies dovetail together rather nicely to give Canadians the comfort of a better quality of life.

Canadians trust our right hon. Prime Minister and our government to deliver on our promises. That is evident by our presence in the government and our strength in the government. Indeed we published these promises in the red book and Canadians can literally check them off as we deliver on them.

Our job creation programs can be seen across the country in our infrastructure works which are completed and which are in progress. As promised by the Prime Minister the country is starting to feel better about itself. I might point out that nowhere is this more evident than in Windsor, Ontario where unemployment is down, welfare claims are down and crime is down.

Jobs mean prosperity and prosperity reduces the stress in our society. Sometimes as is the case today it is necessary to deliver legislation which seeks to aid Canadians to feel safer and to correct inadequacies in the system where they exist. This is the reason for Bill C-41.

Canadians need reassurance. Canadians need comfort. I would suggest that Canadians do not want this reassurance and this comfort to be at the expense of human rights. The government has consulted Canadians across the country and found out that Canadians are concerned about certain aspects of our criminal justice system. Canadians are not hysterical. Canadians are not narrow minded. Canadians believe that there are some injustices in our system. Canadians believe that aboriginal people for instance receive inappropriate sentences disproportionately.

Canadians believe that poor Canadians are sometimes treated more harshly by the courts or by the system than Canadians of financial substance. Canadians think that we should seek some alternatives to custody in certain circumstances. We also know that Canadians do not want all crimes to be treated the same way. Canadians recognize that the quick fix is not possible.

They recognize that there is a difference between crimes and they draw that distinction often based on the presence or absence of violence in a criminal act. They know that there are often compelling reasons to promote an offender's rehabilitation over his or her punishment. At the same time they want consistency in sentencing and a rationalization of the process.

This bill comes to grips with these expressions of public opinion through amendments to the Criminal Code. First and foremost, these amendments set out a general statement of principles and purpose in the sentencing process which covers rehabilitation, the segregation where necessary from society of certain offenders. It covers restitution. It covers the actual promotion in a convicted criminal of a sense of responsibility for his or her acts and it denounces unlawful conduct while deterring both the offender and others. At the same time it recognizes certain fundamental principles that Canadians have told us they are interested in upholding.

The sentence must reflect the seriousness of the offence. The sentence must reflect the degree of responsibility of the offender. The sentence must take into consideration aggravating or mitigating circumstances. The sentence must at least consider alternatives, especially for aboriginal offenders. When a crime is motivated by hate based on race, nationality, colour, religion, sex, age, disability or sexual orientation Canadians want it to be punished accordingly.

The Minister of Justice has considered all of these factors and has presented a bill which respects the wishes of Canadians and the rule of law. There is no quick fix. Our friends opposite would like us to think that there is a quick fix, a year is a year and a day is day. There are always circumstances that require flexibility. There are always circumstances that require us to take off our punishing hat and put on our rehabilitating hat.

I would suggest to our friends opposite that as they consider the fiscal bottom line they consider the difference between the cost of rehabilitating someone over the long term to our society versus keeping that person indefinitely incarcerated with no programs and no opportunity to recover.

The member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce spoke eloquently this afternoon about attacking not only the results of criminal activities but also the causes of criminal activities. We hear nothing about that aspect from the benches opposite.

Members opposite make it all sound so easy. Just throw them in a cell and throw away the key. This I would suggest is the result of simplistic thought and, quite frankly, knee-jerk reactions. The funny thing is it is not even what Canadians want.

The member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, I would suggest, hit the nail on the head when he said that crime is not just a justice issue, it is a health issue, a human resources development issue and it is a human rights issue.

In Canada, sadly, some groups do not enjoy the same advantages as others because of social class, colour or a variety of other reasons. Canada is a much better and freer country than many others, most others for these people, but we have to recognize that not all of our citizens have the same advantage.

Canadians have recognized this and Liberals have recognized this. That is why we do not offer these amendments in a vacuum. When we look at Bill C-41 we also have to look at the movement that we are making to rationalize the national health care policy and the extensive social safety net reform that will be introduced shortly. This social safety net reform is intended to deliver better social security in our country. The rest of the country can then follow the example of the greater Windsor area, less unemployment, lower welfare payments, fewer welfare cases and a lower crime rate.

It is not as easy as our friends opposite make it. We cannot jerk our knee and solve the problems with a simple saying or a simple quote. We have to be versatile and we have to be flexible. I would suggest to members opposite that is exactly what the hon. Minister of Justice has done here and that it is consistent with what Liberals do and it is consistent with what this government has done and will continue to do in the future.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
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September 20, 1994

Ms. Shaughnessy Cohen (Windsor-St. Clair)

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have the opportunity to address the House today on Bill C-45. As a former prosecutor for Essex county in Ontario I recognize the need for changes in this area to provide Canadians with greater public protection and a greater sense of security. Police officers, prosecutors and victims groups with whom I have discussed these amendments tell me that this is a wonderful and a strong step forward in this area.

The Liberal red book told Canadians that we share their concerns. It told Canadians of our promise to take steps to help protect our citizens from repeat offenders. Safe homes and safe streets are a theme for this government, but it is a theme that goes hand in hand with our other themes of job creation and of respect for human rights. Indeed, these themes of prosperity, security and human rights merge to make Canada the kind of country that really is the envy of the world.

These amendments address the issue of public security. With these amendments our government is following through on our commitments to the public, commitments published in our red book, commitments we have consistently followed up on and that you can literally check off as we go through our mandate. They are sensible commitments which help to improve our security and our rights in this country.

Public safety is the primary consideration in putting forward these changes. As we follow through on our red book commitments we are improving protection from repeat sex offenders. These changes are part of ongoing reforms to increase and improve our handling and our management of these offenders within the federal corrections system. In particular we have focused on those offenders who victimize children, although of course others are included in the sweep of this legislation.

These changes will help to restore public confidence in the corrections process by closing gaps and by responding directly to shortcomings that have been perceived by the public. We will tighten the system for those convicted of sex offences against children. We will pass changes which will allow us to detain in the penitentiary until the end of their sentence sex offenders who victimize children.

Other offences will be caught within the mandate of this legislation. Those include: serious drinking and driving offences; criminal negligence offences which result in bodily harm or death; criminal harassment, more commonly known as stalking laws; and conspiracy to commit serious drug offences. All of these will be added to the list of offences for possible detention until the end of sentence.

Of those offences however I think all Canadians find crimes against children to be among the most reprehensible acts. That is why it is so important to increase the powers of the National Parole Board to enable that body to keep repeat sex offenders behind bars for their full sentence.

Under the existing legislation the National Parole Board must establish that serious harm was done to a victim during the commission of the offence or that it is likely to occur during a future offence involving a child. This criterion of serious harm can be difficult to identify among children who often do not exhibit the full effects of the trauma until later in their lives.

This legislation seeks to improve the protection of children and is also a response to the report on serious harm by the Standing Committee on Justice and the Solicitor General.

In addition to strengthening the sentencing side of sex offences the legislation will also strengthen and expand treatment programs for these crimes. This is another part of our red book commitment.

As important as it is to keep repeat sex offenders in penitentiaries as long as they remain a risk, it is equally important to recognize that their sentences will inevitably expire and that we must therefore strengthen our rehabilitation programs. Although we have made some strides in this area in the past, it is important to keep our focus in that direction and to make sure these programs improve. These amendments will also provide additional reasonable resources for those programs.

We are also following through on a commitment to create a mechanism for the discipline or removal from office of National Parole Board members where members are not performing competently. This proposal, together with increased training, the continued advertising of board vacancies and the appointment of qualified, competent board members will further increase the accountability of the board. This is something Canadians have demanded, something we have promised to Canadians and once again, something we have followed through on.

While this legislation targets repeat sex offenders and other serious criminals specifically, it also addresses the issue of sentence calculation. There has been a longstanding concern about the way sentences are calculated. Changes to the process will ensure that offenders on parole in the community who are convicted of a new offence are automatically returned to custody, and would serve a substantial part of the new sentence, at least one-third, in penitentiary before being eligible to be considered for parole.

Like other legislation we have promulgated since our election and which we will table throughout our term this act is the result of consultation with Canadians. I speak specifically to my friends across the way when I say that unlike some legislators, Liberals do not limit their consultations only to those who share their own view. We have the nerve, we have the mandate and we have the strength to dare to involve all Canadians. We are not afraid to hear other views. We do not sit with narrow, little minds hiding in a hot house. Instead, we go to all Canadians. We seek to widen our horizons. We seek to criss-cross the country and to consult widely in both languages.

That is something the Solicitor General has done. I know my friends on this side of the House join me as should those across the way in commending him for this consultation and commending him for having the guts and the courage to go out and speak to all Canadians.

I ask all members in this House to support this bill.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Corrections And Conditional Release Act
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