Mr. Speaker, I rise to address Bill C-54, the not criminally responsible reform act.
Over the last two weeks, the justice committee has heard a great deal of compelling testimony from mental health experts, legal professionals, law enforcement and victims who courageously shared their heart-rending experiences of pain, of loss, of anger and frustration and of their efforts to grieve and overcome. One of those experiences was shared by the member for Hamilton East—Stoney Creek. I want to thank him and all the witnesses who provided personal accounts that were often heart-rending, but all the more important for it.
On the whole, the testimony we heard confirmed our reasons for opposing this legislation. I want to note that my belief is grounded in statistical analysis and in expert opinion that Bill C-54 would prove counterproductive by complicating treatment for the mentally ill and, as a result, increasing the danger to the public.
The testimony at committee also demonstrated something else: that the government's approach to this bill has had the effect of pitting mental health and legal experts against victims of violence, and it does not have to be this way.
I offer as evidence some quotations from committee testimony, as follows:
It is not about putting them in prison, it is about getting them the help they need.
One witness said, “I believe strongly in increased supports to help those with mental illness in our communities”.
Another witness said:
I am in favour of rehabilitation and I understand the suffering caused by a mental illness.
It may surprise members that those words came to the justice committee from victims and victims advocates. They were saying this.
The following quotation that I will read are from the testimony of mental health and legal professionals who are opposed to the bill.
...the association supports an approach that fully addresses victims' needs...it also recognizes that there are major flaws in the support services and financial aid offered to victims...
Another witness said, “we wholeheartedly support changes that create greater involvement for victims in the process. Without a doubt we want all victims affected by crime to be part of the process”.
Those words came from people who supported victims, but opposed the legislation.
Common ground exists between victims and the mental health and legal communities, irrespective of their views on this bill. The victims who spoke were not simply out for revenge. They recognized the importance of effective treatment for the mentally ill, including accused found not criminally responsible, or NCR.
At the same time, those opposing this bill have demonstrated genuine compassion for victims. It is disappointing therefore that the government did not endeavour to find this common ground before it prepared the legislation.
To be clear, opponents of the bill do not oppose victims, as has been callously and hyperbolically suggested. Indeed, we and other experts support measures to increase the notification of victims and the provision for no contact orders between victims and NCR accused.
It would have been, and, indeed, it still is quite possible, given good faith and openness to the perspectives of all concerned, to draft a bill that first, simultaneously protects the safety of the public; second, respects the interest and wishes of victims; and third, facilitates both preventative and rehabilitative treatment for the mentally ill. Those three things could have existed simultaneously in the bill.
Not only would such a bill have received more widespread support, it would have been less suspectible to constitutional challenges and it would have been far more effective.
I regret, however, that this was not the government's approach. Stakeholder after stakeholder and expert after expert came before the justice committee and stated that the government had not sought their input. Shockingly, while preparing a bill that deals specifically with mentally ill individuals, the government apparently had a grand total of one preliminary meeting with a mental health group before the bill was tabled.
It never consulted, for instance, with Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, which is Canada's largest mental health and addiction treatment facility, or the Schizophrenia Society of Canada or the Canadian Psychiatric Association, among many others.
The Canadian Mental Health Association was granted one meeting, and that was after second reading.
On the legal side, the government ignored no less an authority than the Canadian Bar Association. It consulted with crown attorneys whose input is important, but not with attorneys who represent the mentally ill, whose input is equally important.
The government's choice not to consult with so many of the relevant experts is yet another manifestation of a trend to which we are now regrettably accustomed to in the House, particularly with respect to justice legislation. The government does not base its policies on facts. Indeed, one of the principal reasons the Liberals oppose this bill is that, despite flaws in Canada's overall approach to issues of mental health and justice, the evidence demonstrates that the not criminally responsible regime works well in its current form. Undoubtedly, there are shortcomings with respect to the notification and involvement of victims. There are shortcomings which the Liberal Party has sought to address through amendments. There are also major improvements needed in terms of preventative treatment so people with severe mental health problems can get an early diagnosis and be treated before they commit serious violence.
Moreover, as was recently argued in a feature in L'actualité magazine about Isabelle Gaston, whose children were killed by Guy Turcotte, we might also consider re-examining the way our courts approach expert testimony at trial.
However, the crux of the bill before us does not address most of these problems. Rather, Bill C-54 is focused on changing the way our system deals with mentally ill individuals after they have been found not criminally responsible, yet this is the aspect of Canada's approach to mental health and justice that already works very well. We know it works because several studies have been done on the subject, the most recent of which was finally tabled by the minister last Thursday in its corrected form.
Before continuing, I want to acknowledge and thank the minister for doing so, even if I still do not understand why he tabled the incorrect report in March, one week after being provided with a revised draft, or why the government continued to cite the incorrect figures for months.
While I am on the subject, I must also express my dismay at public statements made by the minister's office and by his parliamentary secretary, questioning the credibility and competence of the researchers they commissioned. In fact, the researchers behaved in exactly the manner top level scientists and academics should. Instead of saying, as the minister did on Thursday, that “mistakes were made”, as though mistakes can make themselves, the researchers did the right thing by immediately acknowledging their error and correcting it. The minister should also do the right thing and apologize to them for tarnishing their reputations.
As we now know, according to the corrected version of that research, only 6.1% of individuals found not criminally responsible in a serious violent offence had a prior NCR finding. The recidivism rate for NCR accused released by review boards was 7% for serious violence. I said that in the House when I made my very first speech. It came from reputable people, from forensic experts to people who worked in the criminal justice system to mental health authorities. In other words, it is demonstrably exceptionally rare for an NCR accused person to be found not criminally responsible of a second violent act upon release. Naturally, the rarity of the occurrence is of no comfort to those who have been victims. It is certainly worthwhile to seek to improve the system further.
However, if we are to make significant changes to a largely successful system, such as creating an entirely new category of NCR accused deemed “high risk” on the basis of medically suspect criteria, we must take great care to ensure the changes we make do not have unintended negative consequences. Regrettably, witnesses at committee warned of that potential, that this bill would have several troubling unintended consequences, complicating treatment for the mentally ill and therefore increasing the dangers to the public.
Here are some of the reasons. By keeping the NCR accused institutionalized for longer periods of time, this legislation would risk overburdening treatment facilities. As Dr. Sandy Simpson, co-chair of the Canadian Forensic Mental Health Network, testified:
Most forensic services nationally are at or near capacity. If you look at Ontario, most of us are running over capacity. Clearly, if one gets overcrowding within secure mental health facilities, your risk of violent behaviour, both patient to patient and patient to staff, rises, and those environments become more dangerous and less therapeutic.
Repeated questions about whether the government considered this potential effect of Bill C-54 have been met with evasive and even dismissive responses.
Second, the bill may result in more mentally ill offenders going to prisons instead of hospitals. Dr. Simpson warned that this could happen as a result of overcrowding, since patients are often detained in prison while waiting for a forensic bed to become available in an institution.
Moreover, as Paul Burstein of the Criminal Lawyers Association argued, the punitive restrictions placed on NCR accused deemed high risk could cause certain defendants, who would otherwise be found NCR, to plead not guilty instead. If these individuals were acquitted, they would be discharged without receiving treatment of any kind, and if they were convicted, they would likely receive either inadequate treatment or none at all. When they rejoined society after their sentence, they would be at least as dangerous as they were before.
At committee, some Conservative members were skeptical about whether this would actually be the case, claiming that defence attorneys have a fiduciary responsibility to advise their clients to plead NCR if such a finding is appropriate. However, if the consequence of such a finding is likely to be inappropriate in its result and its sentencing—for instance, overly punitive restrictions or a longer detention than necessary—it would be entirely correct for a defence attorney to advise against an NCR plea, especially given that many NCR accused are already detained for longer periods of time than if they had remained in the prison system.
Third, and perhaps most critical of all, the bill contributes to the stigmatization that makes many who suffer from mental illness reluctant to seek treatment in the first place.
The rarity of violent acts caused by mental illness in no way diminishes the pain of victims. I want to stress that. However, by using rare occurrences as justification for significant reform, and by designing those reforms so as to limit the role of medical expertise, the government overstates the problem of violence by the mentally ill and understates the potential effectiveness of treatment.
Yet fear of the mentally ill is often a self-fulfilling prophecy. We find mentally ill individuals are largely dangerous; that is the idea we are giving here. We discourage them from acknowledging their illness and they go back into hiding, to being underground, not wanting anybody to know they are ill. A person whose severe mental illness goes undetected is far more dangerous than an NCR accused who has been treated and released by a review board.
Consequently, it is incumbent upon the government to temper its rhetoric and base its policy on facts instead of headlines, thereby reducing stigma and encouraging early diagnosis and intervention.
My colleague, the justice critic from Mount Royal offered numerous amendments at committee in an attempt to address these concerns. Some of his amendments would have introduced or reintroduced principles established by the Supreme Court with respect to NCR accused, such as that NCR accused are not to be punished or left to languish in custody.
The Conservatives explain their opposition by saying that there is no need to codify prevailing jurisprudence, and yet by specifying that public safety is to be the paramount condition of review boards, Bill C-54 would do precisely that. Indeed, two review board chairs testified at committee, and they were already bound by jurisprudence to make public safety their primary concern.
My colleague also proffered amendments to deal with the problematic aspects of the bill, according to which the “brutal nature” of a past act committed by an NCR accused would be an important factor in determining whether the accused posed a future risk, which is a medically dubious causal link. I can assure members of that.
However, Conservative members rejected his efforts in this regard, even going so far as to reject his proposals to define the term “brutal” using existing case law. They preferred the ambiguity that the Canadian Bar Association testified might very well contravene the charter.
The government also refused to include the supports and resources available to the accused upon release as criteria for courts to consider when determining risk, despite expert opinions that such support can be a significant factor in lowering risk of recidivism. Perhaps most egregiously, the Conservatives rejected repeated attempts to ensure that the decision of courts and review boards would be based on medical expertise.
Thus we have before us a bill with little evidentiary basis. It is rife with the potential for unintended consequences. Due to the breadth and vagueness of some of its provisions and the possibility that it will subject NCR accused to unduly punitive restrictions, the bill is likely to raise a whole host of charter concerns. Moreover, because the bill does not even attempt to address primary prevention, it misses the nub of the nature of mental illness altogether. As one of the victims said at committee:
Primary prevention completely failed us.
The member for Kootenay—Columbia, a former RCMP officer, echoed this sentiment by pointing out that when police officers approach individuals who have mental illnesses to try to apprehend them, they are often powerless to ensure that these individuals receive sustained, appropriate treatment. In an effort to address the problem, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto recently instituted a program to screen inmates for potentially dangerous mental health issues as soon as they come in contact with the system.
With federal government support, this kind of program, rather than Bill C-54, would do much to protect the public. Indeed, to address this and other problems related to mental illness, health and justice, members of Parliament must work together and with mental health and legal professionals to develop an effective, evidence-based approach that would support Canadians with mental illnesses and their families and protect the public.
For that reason, I am very pleased that Senator Cowan has introduced a bill that would establish a Canadian commission on mental health and justice. This commission would collect data on the ways mental health and justice intersect, highlight areas that require improvement and facilitate co-operation and the sharing of best practices across jurisdictions. I am hopeful that his Bill S-219 will receive broad-based support so that future policies with respect to mental health and the law would be ground in comprehensive, reliable research and expertise.
In 2005, when he was minister of justice, the member for Mount Royal introduced the most recent reforms to the NCR system. Members of all parties supported both the content of that legislation and the collaborative process through which it was developed. At the time, the current Minister of Public Safety said, “I am pleased to add my support to this bill”.
The Conservative member for Yorkton—Melville said, “The entire debate of the bill in the House and in committee should serve as an example of how Parliament should work”.
I wish I could say the same about Bill C-54, but the legislation we are debating today is regrettably a step backward for the NCR regime, for public safety and for the cause of collaborative evidence-based policy. To keep Canadians truly safe, we must rely on the facts to determine which aspects of our mental health and justice systems are working well and which are in need of improvement. The facts clearly demonstrate that the new high-risk accused category is a solution in search of a problem. As such, Liberals have sought to remove that section from the bill. I support the efforts of my colleague from Saanich—Gulf Islands to also do that.
At the same time, there is much that can be done in the way of mental health and justice policy to support victims of violence by the mentally ill and to reduce the occurrence of such violence in the first place. These are goals that all Canadians support. It could have been possible, through an evidence-based consultative process, to develop effective legislation with similarly broad appeal.
I hope that in the future, mental health and legal experts will not be pitted against victims but will be consulted and included alongside them to better enact effective policies and keep Canadians safe.
Mr. Speaker, this morning Saulie Zajdel was arrested on five charges from fraud to corruption. This is the person best known as the failed Conservative candidate and then the paid shadow MP in Mount Royal where fraudulent Conservative calls took place, which you yourself called reprehensible, Mr. Speaker.
This was a highly paid senior adviser to the heritage minister. Did the background check on this person not reveal any wrongdoing as alleged by the Montreal police today?
Mr. Speaker, we do know that Saulie Zajdel was a star Conservative candidate. We know he got a patronage job from that minister just days after his defeat. We know that he was going around Mount Royal acting like he was the member of Parliament and not our distinguished colleague. We know that a little over a year ago, Zajdel joined the Prime Minister at a happy hour pub stop for some Conservative fundraising. We know that Zajdel was arrested today on a series of corruption charges.
What we do not know is what Zajdel was doing on the payroll of the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages. Tell us.
Mr. Speaker, I am humbled to rise today to wrap up this debate on Bill C-444, my private member's bill.
It is not often we get to work specifically on behalf of a constituent in such a significant way, by making a change to the Criminal Code of Canada. First and foremost, I want to thank the brave young woman and her mother who inspired me to table this bill. There are also many folks on the Hill I would like to thank for the support and encouragement they have extended to me along the way, as well as for the personal work they have put into our debates on this bill. This also includes my wonderful staff, here in Ottawa as well as back in Red Deer.
As I have said, this bill is about sentencing. It speaks to the need for tougher penalties for personating peace officers and public officers, and it is in line with the fundamental sentencing principle of proportionality, which is stated in section 718 of the Criminal Code. We must preserve the trust and respect that citizens have for police officers. When citizens see a police uniform, they trust the authority that comes with it. We are giving the tools that they need to deliver harsher sentences to criminals who breach this trust to cause harm.
Within the parameters of the maximum sentence for this particular offence, the decision of what sentences are appropriate will still rest with sentencing courts. We know that a number of factors come into play in a sentencing decision, such as the criminal record of the offender or the severity of harm caused to a victim.
Aggravating circumstances are just one more factor that sentencing judges are required to consider when the Crown is successful in a conviction. Sentencing achieves a number of results, and one of them is support for victims. The rights of victims need to be protected. They must know that there are serious consequences for criminals who have hurt them.
I extend my heartfelt condolences to any Canadian who has been a victim of someone maliciously personating a police officer to do further harm. I dedicate this work to those victims.
I thank my colleagues for their support. If I still have a moment, I would like to thank the following members for their contribution to debate: the Minister of Justice; the members of the Standing Committee on Justice for their thoughtful study and debate, and their support; the seconders, the members for Sault Ste. Marie and Oxford; the members who contributed their time in speaking here in the House, the members for Gatineau, Mount Royal, Montcalm, Brome—Missisquoi, Charlottetown, Beauport—Limoilou, British Columbia Southern Interior, Vaudreuil-Soulanges, Louis-Hébert, Nanaimo—Cowichan, Chambly—Borduas, Northumberland—Quinte West, Edmonton—St. Albert, Windsor—Tecumseh, and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice, as well as the Associate Minister of National Defence.
There is a special symbolism of having every member present in this House stand to show their support, not just for a bill but for victims and police officers throughout this great nation.
However, because of the uncertainty that surrounds the closing days of any session, I would be proud to use this opportunity to stand on behalf of all members and to accept unanimous consent if the House so chooses.
Mr. Speaker, I rise in response to a question of privilege raised by the member for Kingston and the Islands, with regard to statistics related to Bill C-54, the not criminally responsible reform act.
As hon. members know, the cases involving Alan Schoenborn in British Columbia, Vince Li in Manitoba, Richard Kachkar in Ontario, Guy Turcotte in Quebec, and Andre Denny in Nova Scotia were horrific tragedies for everyone involved. No words of mine nor anyone else's can ever ease the pain felt by the victims and their families.
As the Prime Minister rightly stated, we cannot change terrible things in the world, terrible things are going to happen, but we can create a system that is reasonable. That is exactly what Bill C-54 aims to do.
On November 22, 2012, the government announced its intention to move forward with legislation to address concerns about high-risk accused persons found not criminally responsible.
On February 8, 2013, the government tabled Bill C-54 in the House of Commons.
On February 12, the member for Mount Royal tabled Question No. 1169. Question No. 1169 sought information that the government relied upon in developing Bill C-54.
The government responded to Question No. 1169 by indicating several sources of information that it had relied upon in developing the legislation. The government's response included the final November 2012 report by Crocker et al to the Department of Justice.
As correctly noted by the member for Kingston and the Islands in his question of privilege, “This makes sense because the government can only rely on the evidence it had at the time.”
The member for Kingston and the Islands also noted that the government included an annotation in its response to Question No. 1169, indicating that the Department of Justice had received a significantly amended version of this report 38 days after the introduction of Bill C-54.
After the bill had been introduced, we gave notice that the report had been significantly amended.
In any case, the amended version of the report was provided 17 days after my speech on March 1 on second reading of Bill C-54, with respect to which the hon. member for Kingston and the Islands had taken exception.
A simple Internet search would show the hon. member that the amended version in fact has been available online for everyone to see on the National Trajectory Project at www.ntp-ptn.org.
I would also point out that nothing at any time between March and today, June 13, 2013, has stopped any member of the House to ask the government a follow-up order paper question or just ask us to table the amended version.
I would also like to respond to the assertion made by the member for Kingston and the Islands regarding the Minister of Natural Resources.
In delivering what I consider an excellent speech on Bill C-54, the Minister of Natural Resources was provided, as were many government members, with supporting documentation that in error included the statistics listed in the final report that was submitted to the Department of Justice in November 2012.
To suggest that by referring to this data was a deliberate attempt to mislead the House is preposterous. This was nothing more, quite frankly, than an honest mistake, not of his own doing, and I hope this addresses entirely the matter pertaining to the hon. minister.
In your May 7, 2012 ruling, Mr. Speaker, at page 7649 of the Debates, the chair established a three-part test for establishing contempt in relation to misleading the House. In these circumstances, the claim by the hon. member for Kingston and the Islands fails in two respects. The incorrect statements were not known to be incorrect, and they were certainly not made with any intention whatsoever to mislead the House.
As for the response to Question No. 1169, it is well established that the chair does not intervene with respect to the quality of an answer.
In any event, I would submit that the government went above and beyond its obligations by indicating that a revised report was received after the fact despite the question asking about the drafting of Bill C-54.
For his part, this afternoon the hon. member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley cited examples of committee matters. It is another well-established principle here that the chair does not typically concern itself with committee proceedings, except upon a report from the committee itself.
In this case, this morning the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights reported Bill C-54 with amendments. No other report has come from the committee nor do I anticipate one will.
In drafting legislation, the government relies on a wide array of information. It is because of errors in statistics, such as what came to light in this situation, that the government cannot rely on any one source or any one study. It is a good example.
It is critical that the government collect a broad cross-section of information in drafting legislation, and that is exactly what we did with Bill C-54. In developing Bill C-54, the government relied on a number of sources, including relevant jurisprudence, doctrine, available research, and consultations with provinces and territories.
Indeed, at our last federal-provincial-territorial meeting in October 2012, ministers recognized the importance of public safety being the paramount consideration in the Criminal Code Review Board decisions.
Ministers also discussed proposals to make the process more responsive to the needs of victims, including further consideration for the appropriate term for reviewing decisions in serious personal injury offence cases.
I believe profoundly that the measures contained in our legislation are balanced, reasonable and carefully drafted. We want to ensure that those who are mentally ill and who pose a serious danger to the public and indeed those who pose a danger to themselves get the treatment that they need.
In conclusion, I believe that my submission provides a response to the matter in question and that there in fact is no prima facie case of privilege.
In addition, and in response to the request of the member for Kingston and the Islands, I am seeking unanimous consent to table the amended version of the Crocker report as received by the Department of Justice in March 2013.
Mr. Speaker, there have been consultations among parties, and I believe if you seek it you will find unanimous consent for the following motion, jointly seconded by the hon. member for Selkirk—Interlake and the hon. member for Mount Royal.
That, this House condemn the mass murder of political prisoners in Iran in the summer of 1988 as a crime against humanity, honours the memory of the victims buried in the mass graves at Khavaran cemetery and other locations in Iran, and establishes September 1 as a day of solidarity with political prisoners in Iran.
(Motion agreed to)
Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Cambridge for that enthusiastic applause and possibly one or two others as well. However, I would be surprised if the member for Cambridge and others actually remembered what I was talking about two weeks ago when question period interrupted the profundities of my speech.
Let me say that we support Bill S-14. We think it is a good bill insofar as it goes. Regrettably, we do not think it goes very far. The thrust of my speech was to link Bill S-14 with Bill C-474, the sunshine bill sponsored by me, which would actually be the evidence base for Bill S-14. Bill S-14 becomes far stronger if one brings in the evidence. As such, one would actually succeed in getting prosecutions.
In my previous remarks I talked about how aggressive the Americans are with respect to prosecutions in corruption. The numbers are something in the order of, for the same period of time, 277 prosecutions in the United States for corruption whereas in Canada we only had two. In this respect, the Americans are world leaders and not only world leaders in terms of the aggressiveness with which they prosecute companies that engage in corrupt activities. They do not shy away from prosecuting some of the most recognized companies in the world that trade on U.S. stock exchanges. Therefore, not only is their prosecution aggressive but their legislative agenda is also aggressive.
They have passed the Cardin-Lugar amendment to the Dodd-Frank bill, which basically states that if mining or extractive companies secure a concession they would have to disclose to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission who they have paid, how much they paid, when they paid it, the frequency of the payments, the currency of the payments, and all other considerations in securing that concession. My sunshine bill, Bill C-474, mirrors that legislation. It is something that both President Obama and Prime Minister Cameron want to achieve at the next G8.
I had summarized all of this and talked about the decline in Canada's reputation and went on to discuss the incongruity of the government's position to, on the one hand, support S-14, which we think is a good idea, and to be opposed to the sunshine bill, Bill C-474, on the other.
My newest seatmate as of today, my colleague from Mount Royal, would say that there is a seeming incongruity with the government's position in supporting Bill S-14. It says that it wants to combat corruption, yet by opposing Bill C-474 it is saying that accountability is not important. I cannot reconcile the disparity easily. Perhaps it lies in the simple fact that Bill C-474 is not a Conservative bill. It is a bill that the parliamentary secretary and other Conservatives have claimed would overburden Canada's extractive sector, leaving our companies at a competitive disadvantage and so forth, when this was in fact contradicted by witnesses at the foreign affairs committee.
I have to take note that a number of mining companies and mining associations have come out and said that they not only support Bill S-14 but they certainly support the principles and indeed the mandatory aspects of Bill C-474. Some Canadian companies have enthusiastically taken up the issue of corporate accountability. Business leaders, such as the president of the Mining Association of Canada, Pierre Gratton, believes that corporate transparency mechanisms are not only the right thing to do but they are also good for business.
All of the investors agree. The last thing that investors want is to be embarrassed as they see their investments decline in value on the front pages of The Globe and Mail. Therefore, industry is on side with Bill C-474. It is certainly on side for Bill S-14. Most responsible extractive companies are on side with the EITI initiative. These are good insofar as they go.
Canada as a nation supports the EITI transparency international initiative, but it has not joined. The Government of Canada has declined to join the EITI, which is quite regrettable because we are the country that is of foremost importance with respect to the extractive sector.
Business, in this instance, is actually ahead of the government in terms of a desire to impose a mandatory regime upon itself. Not only is it a good thing to do, it is good for business. Joe Ringwald of Selwyn Resources said that it is important to become a leader in this and to gain reputational advantage. He also said that Canada has become a laggard on this issue.
Industry has generally taken a favourable tone to this legislation and a number of players want transparency, particularly with many of the projects where there is money going to foreign governments and sometimes more money going to foreign governments than to shareholders. The idea of financial transparency has both public and private sector support. As I say, the industry is certainly on side. The NGOs, as might be expected, are on side. Civil society is on side. I would dare say the public is on side. The only issue that we appear to have here is that the government does not want to legislate in this area.
It is going to be a very difficult issue at a difficult time for the Prime Minister when he goes to Great Britain for the G8. Clearly, Prime Minister Cameron wants a clear, mandatory statement with respect to legislation on the extractive sector. He wants other issues agreed on as well, as does President Obama, who is highly supportive of the Cardin-Lugar amendment. They are binding their own companies to this initiative.
Starting September 1, any company that trades on the U.S. stock exchange will be bound by this legislative initiative. The irony is that if we want to find out about a major gold company, Barrick, for example, including who they pay and what they pay for their concessions around the world to foreign governments, including the foreign government of Canada, we will have to go to the New York Stock Exchange to the Securities and Exchange Commission and look at the published reports to see what and who got paid. It seems to me that Canada as a nation, given its position as the number one mining country in the world, should be a little bit ahead of the curve, instead of behind it.
Internationally, the Prime Minister is going to have to do some tap dancing in Northern Ireland, and explain to his colleagues at the G8 why Canada is not supportive of the sunshine bill.
I see that my time is just about finished. I would like to say in conclusion that the incongruity of the government's position in presenting Bill S-14, which is a good bill, but not supporting Bill C-474 is something that the Prime Minister is going to have some difficulties explaining when he meets with his colleagues this month in Northern Ireland.
Mr. Speaker, as the scandals continue to pile up, so do the government's attempts to cover them up.
We all remember the fraudulent calls in the Mount Royal riding, the in and out scandal, the ministers found in conflicts of interest, the Bev Oda affair, the controversial appointments at the Old Port of Montreal, the Bruce Carson affair, the wasteful spending on partisan advertising, and of course the Arthur Porter affair.
What makes the government think that Canadians will believe anything it says, unless it releases all documents related to the Duffy-Wright affair?
Mr. Speaker, in the Islamic Republic of Iran, dissent has been horrifically suppressed. There are 2,600 political prisoners in Iran who are deprived of any form of due process. They are suffering through inhumane conditions. They are raped, tortured and secretly executed.
The member for Mount Royal has started the Iranian political prisoner global efficacy project, and I am speaking on behalf of Hamid Ghassemi-Shall. Hamid is an Iranian Canadian from Toronto, who was arrested in Iran in 2008. His brother, Alborz, was arrested just two weeks before. Hamid was sentenced to death in a show trial, on falsified charges of espionage. In prison, Hamid and Alborz were physically and psychologically tortured and spent 18 months in solitary confinement. Alborz eventually died.
There is no greater threat to international peace and security than the Iranian regime. We must not forget the daily atrocities going on inside Iran. This week is Iran accountability week, but it cannot stop here. We must hold the violent, sadistic and brutal leaders of Iran accountable on every single day of the year and continue to advocate for the release of all political prisoners, like Hamid Ghassemi-Shall.
Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Toronto Centre said that he is advising us not to support the bill, but we as Liberals will be voting against it on a basic premise, the premise being that Bill C-54, which is the non-criminally responsible reform act, would not achieve the desired result. Instead, it would cause more harm than good and further stigmatize the mentally ill at a time when the good work of the Mental Health Commission of Canada has begun to undo that misinformation with good evidence and is encouraging mentally ill people to seek the treatment and the early diagnosis that they need.
This is the most important thing that we want to stress here. This legislation would send mentally ill people back underground, because they will be terrified of being stigmatized in the way that they used to be in the past.
Liberals agree fully that the rights of the victims should be enhanced. We have no problem with that part of the bill. We agree that public safety is of the utmost importance and is a core part of the justice system. We have no problem with the issue of public safety, but our concern lies with the lack of balance in the bill.
The designation of high-risk offender for a person who is not criminally responsible would create a fear of the mentally ill. The point to remember is that only 0.2% of all criminal cases in the courts—any criminal case at all—is an NCR person, and only 10% of that 0.2% are violent offenders. We are talking about a very small number of people.
This is the kind of problem that we do not want to see, this knee-jerk reaction of creating legislation that would do more harm by trying to deal with a problem that has been dealt with already in a manner that has been shown to be successful with some tweaking.
We agree that the bill needs some enhancement. We would like to see an evidence-based approach that would incorporate the experience and the expertise of professionals in the field of mental health and justice. Our approach would enhance public safety by focusing on the prevention of violence by individuals with severe mental illness, and that means early diagnosis.
A lot of time should be spent in catching young offenders and diagnosing them before they offend. Many instances of NCR cases who commit violent crimes involve people who did not know they had a mental illness and suddenly had a crisis and became severely incapable of being criminally responsible. They became schizophrenic or they had an acute episode of manic depression or something that caused them to do that violent act.
Therefore, we would also like to see intervention and treatment as part of a good solid bill that would deal with this issue. Rather than adding to the stigmatization of the mentally ill by using a small number of high-profile cases to foster the impression that Canada is overrun with dangerous psychopaths, we would like to reduce the stigma. We would like to encourage Canadians suffering from severe mental illness to seek treatment. If we keep the stigma up, people with mental illness do not want to seek treatment.
That has been the whole problem over all the years, and it is why the Canadian Mental Health Commission has stepped in to deal with this issue. The government has repeated many times in the House that it wants to decrease stigmatization, but this legislation would do the exact opposite.
The mental health groups, all of whom claim that they have never been consulted by the government despite the minister saying that he had consulted them, feel very strongly about this issue.
I would like to quote the Mental Health Commission of Canada, which was created by the federal government. It says that in fact this bill
...paints an inaccurate picture of violence and mental illness. The more mental illness is stigmatized, the harder it is to get people to seek treatment and to stay in treatment. Yet treatment is the most effective preventive measure for the small number of people with mental illness who commit violent offenses.”
The Mental Health Commission of Canada, which the government has mentioned in many speeches, says that it did not necessarily approve of the bill.
Let us look at the evidence.
As I said earlier, non-criminally responsible offenders make up only 0.2% of all criminal cases, and only 10% of that 0.2%, which is 0.02%, are actually violent offenders, so we are talking about a very small group of people.
When appropriately treated, the recidivism rate of these offenders is actually 7%. However, if they are not appropriately treated in a mental institution, their recidivism rate becomes increasingly high, something like 63%.
I ask hon. members to think about it and compare 7% recidivism rate when properly treated and a 63% recidivism rate when put into the criminal justice system and imprisoned.
I want hon. members to look at what we can do, because the problem, and we have heard this said before by the Bar Association and by many people, is that if we force people who are mentally ill into this mandatory three year treatment in a hospital before they get any release leave, so lawyers tell their clients not to ask for an NCR designation. In other words, these people therefore will go to courts and they will be put into the criminal justice system, they will be put into prison and therefore we will see what damage is done and that recidivism rate will rise to 63%.
We are talking about a bill that can damage and can cause more harm than good, and I want to stress that.
The point is that the recidivism rate of all persons released from any kind of federal custody in terms of the criminal justice system and prisons is 46%. That means all people, not just people with violent crimes. The key is to recognize that NCR offenders, by being put into the appropriate criminal treatment facility as opposed to prison, will actually be able to achieve the kind of treatment they require, the ability then to go out and be rehabilitated.
I think this is the some of the problem that everyone wants to talk about, that in fact the public fear of people who have their NCR, who have been treated and are going through their actual community rehabilitation, are out on the street. This concerns people. It could be easily looked at, in spite of evidence, to ensure that every time this community rehabilitation occurs and the offenders are out in the community, that there is a custodian with them. They are actually with someone who is looking after them so they are not alone in the system. That would help to bring down the kind of public fear about which we are talking.
Let us look at the system currently. When offenders currently are NCR and they are put into the appropriate facility, which is a mental hospital, they have a yearly review. Every year they are reviewed and that is done by a review board. This has worked very well in the past. The review board has psychiatrists and other people who then decide whether the individuals have been cured and are ready for the next stage in rehabilitation, so the public safety is assured that they do not go out into the public until they are ready to go do so.
If people are concerned, we could tighten this. We could look at a judicial review instead of an ordinary review by psychiatrists only, as long as the judge who is reviewing someone is in fact learned in mental illness, how mental offenders are treated and the treatment facilities. We could live with that.
However, we do not want people to be sent to federal prison. When we demand that they have three years, a lot of people will not claim NCR and instead go into prison, and that could be a problem.
The other thing is that there are people currently in the system who may have been rehabilitated, are ready for community rehabilitation and to go back out into the system. This retroactivity in the bill would force them to stay for a further three years within the system. I do not know if this meets the charter challenge. I do not know if anyone looked at the constitutionality of that kind of mandatory incarceration of offenders for three years, regardless of whether they are ready to go out and regardless of whether people have said that they are ready to leave.
We would want to look at the bill. It does not have charter scrutiny. There are no prevention components in the bill. There is no early diagnosis of mental illness in the bill. There are no community institutional support systems in the bill. We heard this very clearly. Mr. Howard Sapers, a correctional investigator, had this to say:
My concern is that we may see an increased number of offenders going into penitentiaries who have known significant diagnosed mental illness including major psychosis, and the concerns around the capacity of the correctional service to deal with that [is a problem]
We would like to look at something else. In fact, my colleague, the hon. member for Mount Royal, had a bill when he was justice minister in our government, and it was excellent. The current Minister of Public Safety said that he thought it was a great bill. Therefore, why do we not look at that bill again? Why do we not bring it in, instead of something that would do more harm than good and stigmatize the mentally ill?
The electoral district of Mount Royal (Quebec) has a population of 98,888 with 68,211 registered voters and 182 polling divisions.
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