IN THE HOUSE ~ Debate on Bill S-6 An Act to amend the Criminal Code and another Act (Serious Time for the Most Serious Crime Act)

40th Parliament, 3rd Session

Context : Questions and Comments

Mr. Peter Julian (Burnaby—New Westminster, NDP): Mr. Speaker, I would like to welcome members back to the session as we start our work here in January.

The member for Elmwood—Transcona has been very articulate and outstanding in this Parliament in pointing out the differences and the contradictions between what the Conservatives say and what they actually do.

Here we have a situation where there have been massive cutbacks in crime prevention programs, massive cutbacks in addiction programs; in short, massive cutbacks in every single sector which actually works to reduce crime.

I just have to ask the member, given this track record for the Conservatives, given all these things that they have cut back on that actually helped to bring the crime rate down, does he not think that the real objective of the current Conservative government is just very juvenile partisan gamesmanship, that rather than actually doing the concrete things that reduce crime, that work in communities, what they actually want to do is stoke some kind of political fire to obtain some kind of cheap partisan political advantage from what they should be taking seriously?

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As we know, in many parts of this country firefighters and police officers are not covered by provincial or municipal plans. There is no insurance, which means that if they die in the line of duty, if they die protecting Canadians, their families get nothing. Their families have to sell their houses.

I have spoken with spouses of firefighters and police officers who have had to take on second and third jobs to try to keep a roof over their heads, and whose kids have had to give up on schooling, kids whose parents, father or mother, a public safety officer, a police officer or a firefighter, died in the line of duty and there was nothing to compensate the family.

In the United States every single one of those public safety officer deaths is compensated. There is insurance so that the family can keep a roof over their heads, and so that the family can mourn and go on with their lives, at least knowing that they do not have to work every day to keep the wolf of indebtedness away from the door.

The government, elected scant weeks after that legislation was adopted by this Parliament, has for five years steadfastly refused to provide compensation to police officers and firefighters in this country. If there is another reason for Conservative supporters to be ashamed, it is this, that the Conservatives would show such reckless disregard and disrespect for our public safety officers, our police officers and firefighters, who die in the line of the duty. The government has done absolutely nothing. It is sickening and deplorable.

For the government to pretend that it is somehow on the side of police officers, it is the height of hypocrisy. It has done even more than that. Before the Conservatives came to government, and they have had five long years where they have had ample opportunity to take action rather than bringing bills like Bill S-6 forward, they could have taken action in this regard. The Conservatives made commitments to put community police officers on the streets right across the country.

Community policing is the most effective anti-crime strategy possible and coupled with effective crime prevention policies and addiction treatment programs would be an overall strategy that is remarkably effective.

What have the Conservatives done? They did not keep their promise. As my colleague, the member for Elmwood—Transcona mentioned a few moments ago, the government gutted the prison agricultural program which was very effective in providing that transition for inmates back into civil society.

On the anti-crime front, the government has a lamentable, deplorable record. What it chooses to do is bring forward Bill S-6, after destroying the infrastructure that is providing for crime prevention and reducing the number of victims.

If the Conservatives continues to agitate for an election, putting those attack ads up across the country, wanting to go to an election right away, the only thing I would say is that given the Conservative record on crime, they better watch it. The Conservatives want an election so eagerly and they are going to have to stand on their record. The Conservative record on crime prevention, the cutbacks to addiction programs, the disrespect for police officers and firefighters, and the broken promises on providing community policing is even worse than the previous Liberal government.

That is what the government has done on the crime front. I just want to mention a couple of other aspects that I think contrast vividly with Bill S-6, this bill that the government continues to bring back every time it prorogues the House because it says it is anti-crime.

Canadians are also aware of two other things that the Conservative government has done in the last few months. First, with respect to that murderous regime in Colombia, the secret police and the army, guilty of the deaths of dozens and dozens of people, labour activists, human rights advocates, what the government chose to do was sign a preferential trade government. The government gave them preferential trade status. In other words, it just whitewashed all the deaths. It did not in any way say that Colombia had to clean up their act and stop the secret police, the army and the paramilitaries from massacring civilians.

The Conservatives said they would give Colombia a stamp of approval, that it does not matter how many people are murdered, Canada was going to give Colombia a preferential trade agreement. It was absolutely despicable and hypocritical.

Across the length and breadth of this land, people see that difference. They do not see it as logical that a murder taking place in Colombia is alright, and that the government is somehow being tough on crime here in Canada.

Context : Questions and Comments

Mr. Peter Julian: Mr. Speaker, the member for Windsor West is absolutely right. Before I was elected to Parliament, I was a financial administrator. As with most New Democrats, the way ordinary Canadians manage their households is being careful to spend money on the essentials. That is why one wants to put a budget in the hands of ordinary Canadians that will be managed best, not by the high-flying, elite Conservatives and certainly not by what we saw from the Liberals in the past. It is simply a matter of making the crucial decision, the way Canadian families do every day, of putting money into essentials.

A $650,000 vase is not an essential or the $2 billion for a 72-hour meeting because the Prime Minister got carried away and decided to build fake lakes here and cover over other lakes there is not a priority or the tens of billions of dollars shovelled out the back of a truck for corporate tax cuts.

That money is going offshore and the Conservatives have not even put any valuation mechanism in place for them to know whether the money is actually being used for job creation. There were 600,000 full-time jobs lost, we got 400,000 part-time, low-paying jobs back and they say it is a wonderful thing. They lost 200,000 jobs generally and the quality of the jobs they have created are much poorer than the quality of the jobs that were lost.

An essential is putting in place the programs for youth. The member for Windsor West identified that there are record levels of student debt and programs need to be in place for youth to make sure they are given alternatives. What have the Conservatives done? The member for Vancouver Kingsway will address this in a moment as well. They have gutted the youth gang strategy, the crime prevention programs and the supports for our nation's youth. They are simply incapable of putting in place a strategy that is effective. It is all about partisan politics. If they really want the election that they are pushing so badly, their time of judgment by the Canadian public will come.

Context : Questions and Comments

Mr. Peter Julian: Mr. Speaker, that is a very good question. In fact, one could almost say that through the Conservatives' trade strategy what they are doing is fueling organized crime through the money laundering of the dirty drug money that is taking place in Panama. They signed a reward cheque, a privileged trade agreement with Panama. It is the same kind of situation in Colombia. The gangs are affiliated with the government there and the government gets a reward from the Canadian government. It is absolutely appalling in both cases.

When we talk about youth employment strategies, anti-gang strategies and crime prevention, they are all priorities. They have to be priorities in the justice system. What is the government doing instead? Because it is so fiscally irresponsible, it is throwing away $9 billion for prisons that, according to the President of the Treasury Board, are being built so that people who commit unreported crimes can be put in jail. There have been enough jokes around the country about that idea, the phantom prisons or prisons for unreported crime, which is absolutely absurd.

If it spent a fraction of that money responsibly and prudently, the way Canadian families do, it would be putting that money into the programs that the member for Windsor West just mentioned: summer employment programs, crime prevention programs and anti-gang youth strategies. Those are the prudent and smart investments that an NDP government, if that is the will of the Canadian people, would do. The Conservatives simply are a hollow shell as far as concrete and practical approaches on crime. That is becoming very evident from their actions over the last few months.

Context : Debate

Conservatives are saying they want to get stuff done. All they want to do is have partisan attacks, smear campaigns and run attack ads everywhere they can, but Canadians want something different. They want a real crime strategy, a smart on crime strategy that prevents crimes before they are committed. They want to make sure that the funding is in place for youth gang strategy, and they want an effective, smart on crime strategy that actually--

Context : Questions and Comments

Mr. Peter Julian: Mr. Speaker, I will say this to the member: What the NDP has been pushing for is the kind of programs that reduce crime. If the member for South Shore—St. Margaret's thinks that Canadians support the Conservative's gutting of crime prevention programs, I think he will have a rude awakening come this election that the Conservatives are pushing.

What Canadians want to see is crime prevention programs put into place. They want to see the community policing the Conservatives promised, and that promise actually be kept. Canadians want to see the kind of addiction programs that bring down the crime rate.

The Republicans in the United States are saying that the NDP is right on these prime issues, that it is a wrong approach what the Conservatives have done, that they are wrong to cut back on crime prevention programs and addiction programs. If the Republicans in the United States can say that the NDP has been right all along on a smart on crime strategy, I guess it begs the question, on what planet are Conservatives if even Republicans can understand that simple concept that when we put crime strategies in place, we spend less money and we have fewer victims, I guess the question is, why are the Conservatives offside with every other civilized country and even their own right-wing parties in other countries who come to the realization that we have to put in place the supports and the crime prevention strategy before the crime happens.

Context : Debate

Mr. Peter Julian (Burnaby—New Westminster, NDP): Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to follow my colleague, the member for Elmwood—Transcona and, as we had earlier in the day, the member for Halifax and the member for Windsor—Tecumseh, speaking on this bill.

It is interesting to note that the Conservatives cannot even rise in this House to defend this bill because the criticisms that are brought on Bill S-6 have been so sharp and so clear that they just do not have answers. The justice minister made his little partisan attempt earlier this afternoon, but it is very clear that the Conservatives know they just do not have very much substance backing up this bill.

To start, we need to talk about what the history has been around Bill S-6. This is now the umpteenth time in the House of Commons that we are negotiating the same bill and having these discussions and debates around this bill. Why is it that this bill has come back yet again? As we well know, it is for one simple reason. What this government has done systematically with its justice legislation, some of which was good but mostly bad, is every time it moves in the House of Commons, it moves to prorogue the House of Commons and then start the bills over again. Then the Conservatives have the audacity to come into this House and say something about the opposition not agreeing with or slowing down their agenda, when every single time what we have seen is the Conservative government stopping the Conservative agenda. So for the umpteenth time now they bring this bill back.

In the cost of debates and prorogations bringing this back, countless dollars in taxpayers' money have been spent on this bill. It begs the question of why this bill. Why are the Conservatives bringing forward so much so often, every time they prorogue Parliament which is a despicable act, given the importance of moving forward as a country, and as a democratic government moving forward having debates, deciding which legislation is good and which legislation is bad? That is an extremely important role in democracy.

As we well know, we are seeing countries in North Africa where people literally die trying to obtain that quest for democracy, that desire to have what we have here. The forum for democratic debate is absolutely essential.

We have a democratically elected Parliament that is systematically prorogued by the government, and a Prime Minister that try to treat Parliament as his own personal play thing. So he has this bill that the government brought back.

When we look at the due regard for impact of the bill, we have to look no further than the testimony of Don Head, the commissioner of the Correctional Service of Canada, before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights on November 16 on Bill S-6. This testimony is freely available to every single member of Parliament, to look at what the actual impact of this bill is that the government keeps stubbornly bringing back.

Here is what Mr. Head said at that time on November 16:
Historically, since the first judicial review hearing in 1987, there have been a total of 181 court decisions.

So over the last 25 years, the last quarter century, there have been 181 court decisions. This bill that is brought forward would obviously have an impact on that.

He continues:
Of these cases, 146 of the court decisions resulted in a reduction of the period that must be served before parole eligibility, and 35 resulted in a refusal.

So 35 were rejected.

Of the 146 offenders who have had their parole eligibility dates moved earlier, 144 have now reached their revised day parole eligibility date, and 135 have been granted parole. Of these 135 offenders, 68, or about half, had no issue during supervision, 35 received a suspension but were not subsequently revoked, and 23 had their parole revoked. Seven of these hundred and thirty-five re-offended in a non-violent manner and two re-offended violently.

Context : Debate

Over the last quarter century, out of the hundreds of persons who might have been eligible, as we work through the process we find that many of them were rejected, some were granted parole and some, for parole violations, had their parole revoked. Only seven reoffended in a non-violent manner. Two reoffended violently.

I will finish the quotation from Mr. Head because it is very relevant to Bill S-6 and what is being brought forward today.
Of the two offenders who reoffended violently, one was found guilty of two counts of assault and one count of assault with the use of force, and the other offender was found guilty of one count of robbery.

This is a very important preamble to the debate we are having in the House today. We are talking about the government being concerned about violations over a period of a quarter century that resulted in exactly one assault and one robbery. There is an inordinate amount of time brought forward on this bill for an issue that has essentially resulted in one assault and one robbery. While we deplore the assault and robbery on those victims, the reality is that the other actions of the government have had a manifold negative impact on increasing crime rates far beyond the characteristics of this bill.

Let us take a moment and look at what the government has done since it has been in power.

We are talking about Bill S-6 and the net impact, if it had not been so poorly drafted. As usual, the government, as we have certainly seen in trade policy most recently with the softwood lumber sell-out, did not do its due diligence. Softwood lumber communities across this country paid the price with another $60 million fine levied a few days ago and millions of dollars now in potential fines coming forward because the government simply did not do its work on the softwood lumber. The government has not done its work on Bill S-6 and even if it had, we are talking about an issue that over a quarter of a century resulted in one assault and one robbery.

As deplorable as those two acts were, the government's intent and actions in gutting crime prevention programs have had far worse of an impact. Let us look at the impact of what it has done.

The government has slashed crime prevention programs by more than half. It has gutted the programs that actually reduce the number of victims in society. Yet, instead of doing anything to increase crime prevention, which the NDP would support fully, the government has gutted those programs. The NDP has stood up strongly in this House to say that is fundamentally wrong.

Every dollar spent on crime prevention programs saves six dollars later on in policing costs, courts costs and prison costs. Why would the government not beef up the crime prevention funding? That is certainly what Canadians want to see.

On the crime prevention front, Canadians want to see lower crime rates and crime prevention investment taking place because it is cost effective and it means eliminating victims. There are no victims when the crime is prevented in the first place. Well, this government slashed those programs and is now bringing in this piece of legislation. It is trumpeting how effective it wants to be on crime when the impact, over a quarter of century, has been one robbery and one assault.

The government has cut back on addiction programs. I will come back a little later to what even Republicans in the United States are saying, and Newt Gingrich was quoted earlier. Republicans in the United States have come around in that we have to beef up funding for addiction programs to bring down the crime rate. What has this government done? Exactly the opposite.

Just a few scant weeks before this government came to power, the NDP brought forward a private member's bill. I was in this House when that vote was held and there were police officers and firefighters in the gallery. The NDP brought forward legislation for a public safety officer compensation fund. Conservatives at that time voted for that legislation. Firefighters, police officers and their families were very happy with that.

Context : Debate

Canadians are very principled people. Whether they are in South Shore, St. Margarets or northern Alberta in Edmonton they understand that a regime whose secret police and paramilitaries and militaries are guilty of murder should not be given a reward for having committed those crimes.

Then of course just a few months ago we had this government bring forward other legislation. As we know, the IRS and the American state department has deplored Panama for its money laundering of drug money. There are illegal drug gangs that money launder through Panama. What did the government do? Again, it gave it a stamp of approval and actually has put in place a trade agreement, which the NDP is sharply opposed to, that allows for more cover up of the money laundering and tax evasion that is taking place in Panama. There is no tax information agreement in place. The government, in a sort of weak way, requested it. At this point in time, to put that trade agreement in place is fueling that kind of dirty drug money laundering that is taking place in Panama today.

Here is the contradiction. After having prorogued a couple of times, this government comes forward yet again with this bill stating that it wants to be tough on crime. We look at the statistics from the Correctional Services of Canada and we see that what it is actually talking about is one act of assault and one act of robbery over 25 years. Then we see what the government actually does. The government talks a good line. It does not walk its talk. What it does is gut the programs that actually contribute to public safety.

Following me will be the member from Vancouver Kingsway who is going to talk about the youth gang program that the Conservatives have just gutted again, another public safety program, crime prevention program, that stops crimes before they are committed. What does this government do? It stops it.

That brings us back to the fundamental question: why is this bill being brought forward? That is the crux of the debate here today. It is not about crime. It is about the kind of partisan, juvenile posturing that this government has become renowned for. After five years in power it still has no opportunity of getting a majority government. That is because of the kind of juvenile posturing it has taken on these important issues. When we look at fiscal management and its record deficit and the appalling misspent allocation money, tens of billions of dollars for corporate tax cuts, the economy, where the government has succeeded in throwing away 600,000 well paying full-time jobs and replaced them with 400,000 low paying part-time jobs, it then comes into the House and states this is a trial. These are the kinds of contradictions that Canadians see. Canadians do not like those contradictions and the inability of this government to walk the talk.

Then we get to the crime files and we see case after case. Whether it is rewarding bad regimes or murderous regimes, whether it is cutting back on the prison farm program, not keeping its promise on community policing, not showing respect and providing support for families who have lost a police officer or a firefighter family member by providing for the public safety officers compensation fund that this House voted on five and a half years ago, the cutbacks to crime prevention to youth gang programs to addiction programs, all of which have an impact on reducing the crime rate, these are the contradictions that Canadians see more and more. These are the contradictions that Canadians deplore. Yet this government is revving its motors, putting on its attack ads and its smear campaign in full bore to go for an election right now. It is very clear that it wants an election, devil the people, devil the Canadians.

Context : Questions and Comments
Mr. Peter Julian (Burnaby—New Westminster, NDP): Mr. Speaker, I appreciated the speech from the member for Burnaby—Douglas.

Would the member comment on Newt Gingrich and Pat Nolan, two Republicans from the United States who, in their article, talk about what happened in Texas. They decided against building more prisons in Texas and opted to enhance proven community corrections approaches, such as drug courts. They redirected the money into community treatment for mentally ill and low level drug addicts.

Not only have these reforms reduced Texas prison populations, but for the first time there is no waiting list for drug treatment in the state and crime has dropped 10% from 2004 through 2009, reaching its lowest annual rate since 1973.

Since even Republicans now understand the good merits of the NDP approach of being smart on crime, I guess I would like to ask the member for Burnaby—Douglas why the Conservatives do not get it.