Excerpts from a speech by Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo MP Cathy McLeod in the House of Commons on Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2020.
IT IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT for the public to have confidence in our criminal justice system, in public safety and in the decisions of the Parole Board.
We have a government that has been here for over four years. Over the last number of years, I would suggest there have been some flags that it has not been paying attention to but should have. I know it loves to suggest the previous government did this and that, but there is a stale date on that and that stale date has come. It has had over four years to put its stamp on things and to be responsible for its decisions and what is happening in government.
The current government received an Auditor General’s report in 2018. In that 2018 report, there were concerns, including gaps in the monitoring of inmates and standards not being followed. It identified some problems. The government indicated that it accepted the concerns of the Auditor General and was going to make changes.
If we look at the public accounts and the departmental plans, the changes the government made were reductions in the budgets for those departments. If we look at the government’s plans for those departments where the Auditor General was identifying concerns, we see reductions were made. Therefore, we have to balance those two factors.
In December 2019, the Union of Safety and Justice Employees said things were at a crisis point and it made a whole host of recommendations as to what it believed the government needed to do to respond to a critical situation. As I understand, to date it has not received the courtesy of a response to some of its very clearly laid out situations.
Mr. Boyer, who was on the Parole Board from 2012 to 2018, talked about how the changes made by the Liberal government in 2017 led to a shortage of experienced members. In Quebec we now know that 14 out of 16 board members were inexperienced. They had been on the job less than a year or two and were not experienced.
As a nurse, I come from a health care background. When we had new nurses who came to work for us, they needed mentoring because there is something one gains from years of experience. When one is dealing with difficult situations involving the health of people, those years of experience make a difference.
It is fair that the government wants new systems and new people. However, it should have done that methodically, recognized the importance of that experience and taken its time, instead of just blowing the system apart. It can do that with some types of appointments but not with something this critical, which requires a seasoned and experienced eye. It cannot just blow the system apart, put a bunch of new people in place, and expect everything will be okay and that the decisions will have the benefit of the eyes of those experienced people.
Therefore, I would suggest that is something the government needs to look at very seriously. Yes, as a government, it has every right to make those GIC appointments and to have a system, but when it takes a system, blows it apart and puts inexperienced people in place, it has a responsibility and it needs to reflect on that issue.
Typically, throughout our history, there have been times when the public has looked at decisions made by the Parole Board and has really been quite concerned. I think that the National Post in 2018 published a list of freed serial killers, child murderers, cop killers, cannibals and terrorists who were all freed despite the pleas of the families. I think we as a Parliament have failed these families when justice is not seen to be done and people who have committed horrific crimes are out of prison. The families know that these people are at a high risk to reoffend.
This is an example from a long time ago, but in 1984 Denis Lortie wounded 13 in the Quebec National Assembly and killed three. He was on full parole only 12 years later. How does that happen? I think any reasonable Canadian would question that he was on parole only 12 years after he shot and killed three people and injured so many more.
There are decisions to be made over time and we need to do everything we can. When there are people appointed, as they were, who are not experienced, more problems will be created.
It is against this background of dysfunction that I have talked about, such as the Auditor General’s report, the union flagging concerns and a number of other things, that we have a series of decisions that directly contributed to the tragic death of a 22-year-old innocent young lady, Marylène
I think everyone in this House has agreed that it is appalling. He was a convicted murderer with a history of violence against women. I believe in the 1990s there was an assault. He murdered his wife in 2004. He hit her with a hammer and stabbed her. He was sentenced in 2006.
What brought this clearly to my mind was an article in the Vancouver Sun that clearly articulated some assumptions made, either by individuals without experience, or by a system that allowed these decisions to be made. We need to find out the answer. The article outlined the questions we have
to ask about this situation and they are as follows:
The first is that men — even violent criminals — have a right to satiate their sexual appetites with another person.
That clearly is what was said, but was it one person or is it systemic?
The second is the perverse idea that if a violent man is incapable or not ready to form a healthy relationship with another person, it’s OK for him to engage in unhealthy relationships where, as the buyer, he has power over the seller.
Finally, putting the sexual needs of a violent criminal ahead of the safety of other Canadians, including those who do sex work, suggests a grotesque hierarchy that is an affront to the constitutional and moral ideals of equality.
Those three points clearly go to the very root of the issue of what happened in this case and why everyone finds it so offensive. It is important that everyone in this House agree that a parliamentary committee has some important work to do, to look at the system and actually do the job.