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Ontario Hansard - 28-October2008

VIOLENT CRIME


Mr. Robert W. Runciman: Whereas the alarming number of murders and other violent crimes allegedly committed by violent criminals who were out on bail for other alleged violent crimes in Ontario raises Ontarians' fears for their safety and shakes the public's confidence in the administration of justice in Ontario; and

Whereas the issue of violent crimes alleged to have been committed by people out on bail when they should have been behind bars based on their past criminal behaviour is a serious public safety problem that the McGuinty government has failed to address since being first elected in 2003;

The Legislature of Ontario calls on the McGuinty government to call a public inquiry into Ontario's bail system.


The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Mr. Runciman has moved opposition day number 3. I recognize the Leader of the Opposition to lead off the debate.

Mr. Robert W. Runciman: I appreciate this opportunity. Given the rulings of the Chair and comments by others in the past, including the Integrity Commissioner, there is obviously some concern about the sub judice convention, and I will be cautious with respect to my remarks and certainly make every effort to respect the standing orders of the Legislature.

The catalyst behind this motion-from my perspective, in any event-was the double murder of two women in Scarborough on October 13. I went to the funeral of the two ladies. It was a very emotional experience. There were over 1,000 people at the funeral. The evening before the viewing, they estimated that in excess of 4,000 people attended the viewing. This was for Mrs. Saramma Varughese and her daughter, Susan or Suja John. I just want to read a bit about Saramma, which is in the booklet that was distributed at the funeral.

"Saramma, as a wife, mother and grandmother, was humble, devoted, loving and selfless in all that she did." And Suja: "As a loving and caring mother, Suja inherited most of the qualities of her own mother, the late Saramma. In addition to her humble and gentle nature, she had a giving heart and always put her family and friends before herself."

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This is a situation where Chief Bill Blair, the Toronto Police chief, for those who don't know who Mr. Blair is, said that these murders were completely unnecessary, that they shouldn't have happened. He says that because the gentleman in question, the individual who was accused of these outrageous murders, was out on bail, released by the Ontario courts. He was put into house arrest and put into a neighbourhood where the neighbours had no understanding or appreciation of who was in their midst, and of course these two wonderful women were murdered in the sanctity of their own home.

It's a real tragedy, and with my experience as both a justice minister for almost six years and a critic for many more in the justice area, I think this is the most egregious failing of the justice system that I have witnessed. I believe that if we look at the papers on an almost daily basis, we see example after example of the system failing the people of this province. I just opened the Toronto Sun this morning. There was a story in there about an individual who was wanted by the police for a shooting in a Toronto neighbourhood, a high-density residential neighbourhood. The police described this individual as someone who was out on bail for charges of armed robbery. This goes on and on, and all too frequently we see instances where innocent victims, innocent bystanders, are caught in the crossfire of individuals whom courts have allowed to return into society.

We could go on, and this doesn't necessarily touch on the bail issue, but it touches on the issue of confidence in the bail system, and I referenced it in this House on a couple of occasions over the past two days: the shootings on the weekend, which resulted in the death of Bailey Zaveda, who came from Brockville, my home own-her mother still lives in Brockville-an innocent victim who happened to step outside a local pub and was caught in the crossfire of an individual who had been charged in 2005 with another shooting, had been charged with seven charges that were going to court in 2006, and the crown dropped six of those seven very serious charges. As a result of that, along with credit for time served awaiting trial, the individual in question was out I think after 25 months and back on the streets. I've made the argument in the House today that if the crown had fulfilled its responsibilities and pursued all of those charges, which the police and the crown felt had merit at the time that they were laid, that individual would not have been out on the street this past weekend and Bailey Zaveda could well have been in our midst today and not been the victim of a random shooting, in the sense that she was in no way involved.

This is really about a court system that is failing Ontarians, and we continue to ask the Attorney General questions on this in the House, to raise these issues, and he continues to defend a system that clearly is not working in terms of public safety for Ontarians. I'm not sure why he's doing that, why he feels he has to do that. We were hopeful-I was hopeful; I'm being quite sincere here today, given what's happening in our midst on an almost daily basis-that he and his colleagues would be supporting the motion today to have an inquiry into the system to find out what's wrong, to pull back the curtains, expose the weaknesses in the system and work together to correct it, to ensure that the public can be as safe as we can possibly make in it terms of the way the justice system operates in this province. But, regrettably, he has taken a different view, and continuing to try and keep the inner machinations of the system from public view.

My colleague the House leader for the NDP, who I believe will be speaking to this later on, is a former defence lawyer. He and I were chatting about the system earlier and he had a very apt description for what the justice system looks like in Ontario today. He described it as a "sausage factory." There is so much truth to that description. I know a great many police officers look at what's going on in the courts, the costs associated with it, the delays associated with it, the ill-prepared crowns and the sort of cursory look at so many areas that are significant in terms of public safety.

I suggested to the Attorney General today that a lot of the rationale behind some of these decisions-the suspicion is that this is all about court backlogs, full dockets and crowns who don't want to be involved in bail hearings. It's all about a system that is in a mess, and the people responsible don't want to publicly own up to it or do something about it.

Again, I said I don't want to find myself violating the sub judice convention. I gained access to the bail transcripts for the individual accused in the double murders of the two women in their home in Scarborough, and I want to correct the record. Earlier today, I indicated to the Attorney General in a question that the crown had not opposed bail. That was from a quick reading this morning of the transcript. What, in fact, occurred-the judge makes reference to the fact that the crown seeks to detain. That is the only reference I could find. I'm not going to get into specifics again. There is a publication ban as well. But I can say that when I scanned the comments of the crown, there was no comment whatsoever with respect to bail or concern about bail. The only reference I could find was the comment from the judge presiding who said, as I said earlier, that the crown seeks to detain.

If you look at the rationale-and I won't get into the specifics again-they boggle the mind. I think it's public knowledge, so I believe it's safe to repeat this, but you never know any more. This individual was charged, and these are two cold cases-this is gleaned from the media, not from the transcripts-of violent sexual assaults, and the charge initially was delayed on the basis of DNA evidence linking this individual to the crime.

It's difficult for me, and I suspect for most in the public, to look at a situation like this where there are clear DNA linkages to a crime and a court will make a decision to release. This was, in my view, clearly rolling the dice with public safety. The crown, in my view, did not do its job, number one, by not appealing to the Superior Court. They have a 30-day period in which to do so, and if the Attorney General wants to complain about federal legislation, I suppose, if the federal court upheld the bail decision, perhaps he could have a valid argument. But when his employees in the crown law office fail to do what I believe is their clear responsibility in situations like this, I think he has to assume responsibility for decisions taken by people within his employ, and that didn't happen. He continues to refuse to accept any degree of responsibility for what's not happening within the ministry he's responsible for.

We hear, continuously, arguments in this House about the federal government. We're blaming the federal government for not moving quickly enough in this area or that area. They're not supporting us in this initiative or that initiative.

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Well, that may all be well and good, and there may be instances when we can be in full agreement with the Attorney General and the government in terms of legislative changes or initiatives that can be taken to improve public safety, but the other side of that coin is that the provincial government and the Ministry of the Attorney General have a clear set of options and tools available to them to make sure they are doing the best they can to ensure public safety.

I mentioned a few of them. Appeal, obviously, is one where they can appeal to the Superior Court. They can request electronic monitoring of an individual that they feel continues to pose a danger. Perhaps the Attorney General, when he speaks, can talk about electronic monitoring. I understand as well that they have diminished our capability in this province to electronically monitor individuals. Perhaps that's the problem: The request is not going forward. I don't know. Again, so much of this is behind the curtains, behind closed doors, and we're restricted from gaining access to that by so many rules and regulations which do not take into consideration the rights of victims, in many instances, or the good of the population at large.

I know a lot of members want to speak to this issue. This is a genuine concern. I would hope that members of the government would speak in a positive way about this as well. I'm not sure who the MPP is who represents the two women who were murdered in their own home, but I hope he or she is here today. I hope he or she will participate in this debate. I gather there's a petition with something like 15,000 names on it, sponsored by the church that the two ladies attended, calling for a public inquiry into the bail system. Hopefully that member is listening to his constituents and is as concerned as I am and as my colleagues are with respect to the revolving-door justice system that currently exists in this province.

I just want to quickly say that I think we have to try to find ways to address the situation in a non-partisan fashion. We've talked about this earlier; we talked about it in a resolution on the economy. We get into these battles across the floor which serve no one well. I think we have to accept that we're trying to be sincere, we're genuinely concerned about public safety in this province, and we're raising these issues as a responsible opposition. We're not trying to score political points, as some would suggest. We have a responsibility in this place to make sure that these issues are brought to the floor and that the government responds to them in an appropriate manner.

I just want to quickly say that under the Criminal Code there are three provisions that the court has to consider when they are making a bail release decision: (1) the likelihood of the accused to return to court; (2) the likelihood of reoffending; and (3) the possibility of bringing disrepute to the justice system. Well, I think disrepute has been brought to the justice system, not just in this particular instance but in so many on an almost regular basis. That's the reality, whether the minister and his colleagues want to accept it or not.

I think in this instance, the likelihood of reoffending was substantial. I can't say this was a real breakdown in the system, because this may be par for the course in the system. If you look at the transcript, and I encourage anyone to take a look at what happened here, you have to be shocked. You have to be shocked by the conversation that occurs, and you have to be shocked by the lack of concern for public safety. You have to be concerned about the lack of opportunity for police officials to have input and the lack of, I think, steel-minded determination on the part of the crown to stand up for public safety-completely missing. This is all kind of routine business: "Let's get on with the next case and move it through the system." That's the real problem. That's the reality of the justice system in the province of Ontario today.

Regrettably, the minister has fallen into the pattern of defending all of this instead of standing up and saying, "You know, we do have real problems here. I'm going to work with you. I'm going to work with all members of this place to ensure that we improve the system to give the greatest degree of public safety to the public as possible."

I get frustrated about this because it goes on and on and on and we don't get any substantive answers. We always get: "We're going to be jeopardizing a future court case. We're going to be jeopardizing the rights of the accused." Well, I think it's about time we started giving greater priority to the rights of innocent people in this province.

That's what this motion is all about. We're trying to open up the system. Let's see what's wrong, let's correct it and let's make Ontario a much better place in which to work, live and raise a family.


The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Further debate.

Mr. Peter Kormos: I'm pleased to have the opportunity to speak to this motion, and I will be joined by my colleague Peter Tabuns, the member for Toronto-Danforth, who will be addressing this motion as well.

During the course of this afternoon, I want to commend the Leader of the Opposition, Bob Runciman, the member for Leeds-Grenville, for bringing this motion forward. I have known him for all of my 20 years at Queen's Park. He's got a little more seniority than I do, but I have known him consistently, during those 20 years, to be a tireless advocate for victims of crime and a courageous spokesperson for victims here in this chamber and, indeed, outside this chamber, and he bears some of the scars that people who crusade in that manner almost inevitably acquire.

This is a deadly serious matter-yes, it's a deadly serious matter. I can say that when one rises as Mr. Runciman did or as I suspect his colleagues will, as I do today, to express concern, it is reprehensible to try to translate that into some sort of disdain for our justice system. As a matter of fact, if anything, standing here today expressing concern is, I tell you, an expression of my incredible interest in ensuring that the Canadian justice system remains the model for democratic countries to emulate. Look, when people don't have confidence in the justice system; when victims don't have confidence; when, quite frankly, accused persons don't have confidence; when the public doesn't have confidence, we all suffer, we all pay a price, because the regard for law and order, then, is diminished as well, isn't it? It's incredibly important that our courts-and again, for the good chunk of time that I've had the opportunity to know judges at all levels of our courts, we probably-no, not probably. I, without hesitation, say that we have the best bench, certainly in Canada and internationally admired as well. I have no hesitation in saying that to you. The quality of our judges is superlative.

I've known a whole lot of crown attorneys and prosecutors as well. Again, they're hard-working women and men, most of them working for modest pay-I tell you, you don't get rich being a crown attorney or a prosecutor-and working incredibly hard under incredibly difficult conditions. So you see, when I stand here, I'm not being critical of the judges in and of themselves, and I'm not being critical of crown attorneys. I'm certainly not being critical of the cops, and I've heard the Attorney General respond to Mr. Runciman, saying, "We've got a thousand more police on the street." Well, that's the whole point. If you think, as a witness via the newspaper, this is frustrating, imagine how frustrating it is for the cops who do the hard work, who do the heavy lifting, who piece together little bits and pieces of evidence gathered from across the province-and it was the most arduous of work-who then see their efforts frustrated by a system that's not working as well as it should. I'm being incredibly generous when I say that.

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Look, I am convinced because I've sat in enough bail courtrooms-I'll refer to them as that-and let's understand, I think it's fair to say that most people who are arrested are released without ever seeing a courtroom. They're released by the arresting officer; they're released at the police station by the officer in charge. Most arrested people never see the inside of a courtroom until their first court appearance.

Let's understand as well that I'm convinced there is an unacceptable number of people who cool their heels here in the Toronto Don Jail or metro east or metro west, waiting day after day for a bail hearing, who everybody knows are inevitably going to get released and should be released, but because the system is so clogged and suffering so many ailments, you've got people who are going to be released-make no mistake about it-who end up spending more than a few days in detention centres. The triage, if you will, isn't particularly effective, is it? I'm convinced that it's not unique to Ontario. I'm convinced it's happening across Ontario. There hasn't been an Attorney General since Ian Scott who hasn't had nightmares about Askov. One of the observations is that there's incredible pressure on our criminal justice system, and the pressure is evidenced from time to time, more often than anybody would want, by charges being stayed because of delays in prosecution.

Nobody from over here is questioning the need for the judiciary to be independent, and I've spoken out about our very good judiciary. Heck, we were supportive of the government's efforts some short time ago to upgrade the quality of justices of the peace. I've known a whole lot of justices of peace over the course of many years, and I tell you in Ontario we had justices of the peace who ranged from very, very good, quite frankly, to embarrassingly bad. In the case of most accused persons-it wasn't in the case of the notorious case that's been referenced-the justice of the peace is the front line. That's the first judicial officer that an accused and his or her lawyer and the crown attorney and the police have to deal with. I'm concerned that, notwithstanding legislation that was passed, we still haven't done enough to upgrade the quality of justices of the peace across the board here in Ontario.

The Leader of the Opposition attributed to me the comment that our courtrooms have a very unfortunate similarity to sausage factories. The rate at which cases are expected to be processed and the pressure on crown attorneys and their offices to deal with X number of files in a certain period of time is a pressure that I suggest to you gives rise to plea bargaining. We heard from the Attorney General in his discussion about plea bargaining, and plea bargaining is as old as the system itself. But we're talking about concerns about inappropriate plea bargaining, the goal or purpose of which is to simply clear the docket, when plea bargaining is the result of pressures on the crown's office and on the courtroom in terms of the courtroom space and on the availability of judges and on court staff.

How many victims have you spoken to? I suspect as many as I have, who have been the victims re-victimized by a plea bargain deal, who understood the rationale when the crown attorney said, "We weren't sure that we could get a conviction on the aggravated sexual assault, as compared to the common assault, that was pleaded to." But I've got to tell you, every single one of the victims I've talked to would far sooner have had their day in court and let a judge make a determination at the end of the day-far sooner. We have a Victims' Bill of Rights in this province that's been ruled to be effectively not worth the paper it's written on, and we've had no response-notwithstanding that it's now into its second term-from this government about giving the Victims' Bill of Rights the teeth that it needs to ensure that it's more than a declaration for office walls, or lip service.

And then of course the question is, could the Attorney General insist that his crowns oppose bail? I'm not about to suggest that the Attorney General told us anything other than what he believes to be very much the truth. But one can oppose bail vigorously, with evidence that's been put together and witnesses that have been presented to the court, or one can oppose bail in a somewhat more perfunctory way. My fear is that-and again, the pressures on crown attorneys in our courts are tremendous. While there may be the very, very rare-I'll suggest, an anomaly-crown attorney who would have a cavalier attitude towards it, I suggest to you that crown attorneys take their jobs very, very seriously. But if we don't have a standard being set by the Attorney General himself about the fact that you prepare for a bail hearing as thoroughly and with as much investigative work and presentation of evidence as you would a full-fledged trial, then we're going to have tragedies.

The public is outraged at the prospect of somebody being charged with serious, serious aggravated sexual assault being released on bail so that he or she has the capacity to commit yet further crimes and find him or herself charged with them. They don't feel protected by the system. The public has the right to feel protected by the system, don't they? The public has the right to know that-I'm not critical of the Charter of Rights. The public understands the Charter of Rights. The public understands how important a charter of rights is in a free and democratic society. The public understands how important the presumption of innocence is. We all do; I hope we all do. The public understands that. The public wouldn't for a minute advocate doing away with the presumption of innocence. But as hard-working people, as people who pay taxes, as people who are prepared to invest in safe communities and police officers and their police forces, as people who are prepared to invest in ensuring that their kids are safe on the streets, whether it's downtown Yonge St. or downtown Welland or downtown Timmins, people want to know that that justice system is there to ensure that no innocent person is ever convicted. But it's also there to ensure that guilty people are dealt with appropriately and that people who pose a danger to the public are contained so that they can't have access to the public.

One can only guess at what motivates any judge at any given point in time to make a release order when any one of us would say, "Well, that's strange," because you take a look at the evidence that was presented to the judge and you take a look at the standards that are applicable in bail hearings, and it seems to me the judge could have made a detention order as readily. What the public doesn't understand, and notwithstanding that they understand very clearly the need for the independence of the judiciary, is why the Attorney General, then, if that office is so adamant that crown attorneys detain people in custody when they're charged with serious, serious offences like aggravated sexual assault-aggravated sexual assault is as horrific as it sounds. The public then says, "Why doesn't the Attorney General order reviews?"-effectively an appeal of that release.

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The Attorney General-and he may today stand up and say, "Well, the laws have to be changed." I'm not sure that the laws regarding detention have to be changed. I'm not sure that they don't warrant review. Of course. But unless and until those reviews are conducted, and if in fact they uphold the release orders that we find at the very least curious, then I say the system is breaking down, and it's not because of any absence of provisions in the Criminal Code, although one could be critical at any point in time of any part of the Criminal Code.

What does this motion ask for? We see it very clearly: a thorough review of how bail is granted, how bail is acquired, how release orders are obtained, how release orders are given; a thorough review of the resources that are available to cops and crown attorneys; a thorough review of the ability of the courts to properly conduct bail hearings in such a way that they can hear all of the evidence so that their decisions can be based upon all of the facts, not just some of the facts; an understanding of the quotas, formal or informal, that crown attorneys' offices may be under in order to get cases processed through; an understanding of why it is that some people cool their heels for days at a time charged with somewhat minor offences when you know that they are going to be released one way or another because the law is so, so clear, when others are released in what seems to be, as I say, such a perfunctory way.

Why is that information in any way dangerous? It seems to me very valuable information. It seems to me very important that we understand that. It seems to me that if we're going to-because I believe the criminal justice system has suffered from any number of phenomena, but certainly as a result of the phenomenon of people being released on serious charges only to commit offences equally serious or more serious again. It seems to me that we owe it to the system to find out what the shortcomings are, what the flaws are, what the defects are, what the problems are.

So I tell you, Speaker, that I intend to vote for this motion. I plan to stand with Mr. Runciman as he advocates and fights on behalf of victims of crime, and I do so with no hesitation, with no shame; in fact, with pride, because if that isn't one of the things that we should be doing here at Queen's Park as elected people, then we should all go home. If we can't raise these issues, if we have to function under a cloud of fear about raising them, then the problem extends far beyond our criminal justice system, doesn't it, Speaker? If a member of the Legislature has to risk censure or other consequences for conducting himself with integrity and in good faith on behalf of victims of crime, then I say to you, sir, we've got a fundamental problem here, not just in our court system.

The Criminal Code is federal; we know that. But the administration of those courts, the role of crown attorneys in the largest number of cases, and the conduct of bail hearings is entirely within the scope of the province of Ontario and its Attorney General, and Solicitor General insofar as the police are concerned. I say that we in this chamber have an obligation as provincial legislators to ensure that if there are flaws, if there are defects, if the system is ailing, then we diagnose those flaws, defects and ailments fast and we do everything we can to fix them. That's what Mr. Runciman's motion, in my view, is designed to do.


The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Further debate?

Hon. Christopher Bentley: I thank the members opposite for the comments already.

I want to say several things at the outset. To the families, to the communities affected by these terrible tragedies, our sympathies are with them. Tragedies like these naturally raise very important, troubling questions, and I wish to say to all that we share everybody's determination to do whatever is necessary to protect the public interest. The question is, what more can we do and must we do to ensure public safety, to prevent tragedies from happening in the future?

We act in the public interest; we always have. Public safety is paramount in that public interest. Although we as a country share jurisdiction in criminal law with different levels of government, we all serve the same people and we all work to protect the same communities. So in standing here today, I would echo the comments made by the Leader of the Opposition when he said this is not a partisan issue. It is not; it is an issue about ensuring the protection of our communities, ensuring that we're doing whatever we must and can to protect those communities.

To the motion, which has at its heart a call for an inquiry, I say simply, "Inquiry no, but more action. Whatever we must do, we'll do." I say that we have moved where we recognize the need, we have advocated where it's clear that it was not within our power to move, and we will do whatever additionally is required within our power, and we will advocate for whatever further action we need to advocate for when the changes are not directly within our power but within the jurisdiction of another government.

I say to the Leader of the Opposition and members of the third party, what we're all interested in are the approaches and the solutions. As we proceed in the days, weeks and months ahead, I invite my colleagues opposite, as I do the members of our caucus and community members, to continue the work that we're doing with the police, with the crowns, yes, with members of the public, victims' rights advocates-with all of us who have a shared determination. Let's identify the actions that need to be taken to further protect public safety where we can.

It would be correct to say that we have moved in a number of different ways over the past five years, a number of which hadn't been identified when we came to be the government in 2003. We recognized at the time the need for more police officers, and we ensured there were more officers on the street: 1,000 additional officers, and another 329 announced just last Thursday. But we also recognized that there was an additional approach required for the very challenging issues that are presented by gun crime, by gangs, so we brought in the guns and gangs initiative-the operations centre, the task forces-and supported that further with the TAVIS initiative, which is for the greater Toronto area, and the PAVIS initiative, which is beyond, which is a different approach to the very serious issues posed by the dangerous and the violent. That is at the heart of discussion we're having: What further must we do to ensure that the dangerous, the violent and the out-of-control do not pose a risk to our communities?

There are initiatives that have been taken at the federal level to strengthen the legislative framework which binds judges, binds justices of the peace, binds the crowns, and yes, the defence counsel, which operate within them.

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Our government has advocated for a number of years for reverse onus bail for serious gun crimes and for more mandatory minimums for serious gun crimes. I have supported and congratulated publicly the federal government, the Conservative government, on the initiatives as they took them through. We have supported them publicly and privately as they moved through passage. We have been strong in our determination to make sure that the law reflects the needs of our communities, but we started that advocacy when there was a government of a different stripe federally. We started it notwithstanding that it might not have been popular with the government of the day. We will always advocate in the best interests of the people of Ontario and always advocate for their safety.

There are some further actions that we have been advocating for which we believe would assist in protecting our communities, again, I say not as a partisan matter and not as the final answer to all issues. So with respect to young persons, there was legislation before the last Parliament, federally, dealing with changes to the Youth Criminal Justice Act. We advocated and pointed out-and we were not alone; there were Ministers of Justice or Attorneys General from across the country who said that for the out-of-control youth, the bail provisions were not strong enough in that amendment, and by definition, they're not strong enough in the existing legislation, and that the sentencing tools and provisions available to judges were not strong enough in the existing legislation for the out-of-control youth and in the legislative amendments. They needed to be toughened.

At the same time we advocated for that, I congratulated, publicly and privately, the Conservative government in Ottawa for proposing the introduction of deterrents and denunciation as important sentencing principles in their legislative amendments. This is not a partisan issue, and I join my friend the Leader of the Opposition when he says that. We may disagree about specific initiatives, we may disagree from time to time about the policy, but I suspect we share a passionate determination to protect public safety.

The issue has been raised in debate by my colleague opposite from time to time about pretrial credit for time in custody, an issue which is an old issue but has been increasingly used over the last, I would say, half dozen or so years. It sometime manifests itself in two-for-one credits, sometimes three-for-one, sometimes even more, when it comes to sentencing. We have called on the government, federally, to change the sentencing provisions within the Criminal Code which provide guidance to judges in determining the type of credit that can be taken into account. That has been an issue at federal-provincial-territorial conferences; an issue which has guided many.

I know my colleague opposite has spoken to it, so I expect we have, without knowing for sure, pretty close to a common interest on moving on this issue. We will renew our call when the new government is sworn in in Ottawa, not as a partisan issue, because I expect my colleague opposite, long before I was a member of this Legislature, might have said a thing or two about that; I don't know for sure, but I expect he might have-but as an initiative where we had taken a strong position as a provincial government to advocate for change in legislation. Advocating for a change does not make it partisan. It means that it's our respectful view that the interests of Ontarians demand that we end the automatic two-for-one or multiple-for-one credit of pretrial custody when it comes to sentencing, that the automatic imposition does not advance the principles of sentencing, with the greatest of respect, and that we should change that legislatively.

There have been and always will be comments about what somebody might have done by taking a particular snapshot of a particular case. Unfortunately, we almost never have the facts or the law which must guide those decisions at the time the comment is made about the case-we don't have the full facts or the full knowledge of the law before the people who are hearing the snapshot comment about cases.

I would say this: The public should know that the people who work within the crown's office, within the police force, and, yes, as my colleague in the third party said, the judiciary, are determined to achieve justice. The crowns who take positions on cases take those positions placing the public safety as a paramount consideration. They take those positions knowing that whatever they personally may wish to happen, whatever they personally may believe that others would like, the positions taken must reflect the facts that can be proven in court and the law which guides the determination of any judicial proceeding. We take the strong, determined position to protect the public safety when it comes time for bail, when it comes time for the trial or guilty-plea resolutions of cases, and we will always do that.

So I say in outlining our approach to the specific request of the motion that it's action that we all want. It's whatever action is required to protect our communities that we all want. It's supporting-yes, supporting-innocent Ontarians that we all want. It's ensuring that we have done and that we do whatever needs to be done to protect them. When it's within our control as a province, we will take that action, and I look forward to my discussions with Chief Blair, other chiefs of police, the police community, the crowns, yes, community advocates and victims' rights advocates, and discussions with my colleagues and the suggestions as we move forward. I look forward to my discussions with the federal government and the new Ministers of Justice and Public Safety when they are sworn in, and I look forward to the determined effort to protect public safety, protect the rights of all of us in our communities. That is our responsibility. That's my responsibility; that is our collective legislative responsibility. I look forward to those suggestions.


The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Further debate?

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Mr. Toby Barrett: In my view, a public inquiry into Ontario's bail system would just be one step to help restore the public's confidence in our justice system. I think of the chaos and the mayhem and the violence in the Caledonia, Haldimand and Brantford area over the last two and a half years with respect to land disputes. These troubled times have generated, locally, the phrase "catch and release." It's used by people on all sides of the issue, and all too often if someone is actually arrested, they're often merely given a slap on the wrist and then they're out in short order, oftentimes to reoffend. But all too often, as well, people are not charged.

During John Tory's visit to Caledonia quite recently, I was presented with a baseball cap that was emblazoned with the words, "What law?" People in town have bumper stickers and window stickers that state, "Caledonia: No sheriff."

What we're seeing in Caledonia and throughout the area is oftentimes a refusal to apply the law to the facts. What's missing is an application of the law to the facts. In our society, one tenet is non-negotiable: The law applies equally to all. Everyone is equally subject to our laws, without exception. No one is above the law. No one is beneath the protection of those laws that we have in our society. Regrettably, this tenet does not apply in much of Dalton McGuinty's Ontario and certainly in part of my riding in Haldimand-Norfolk.

We know that "justice" is a term that's bandied about with respect to the violence associated with these native land disputes. Justice lies with the courts. I'm not a lawyer or a judge, but in my view justice is served by decisions rendered by our courts after a complete, balanced and open hearing of all the facts, coupled with a reasonable, objective and fair application of the law to those facts. However, locally, people question whether justice is being served.

I raised an issue in the House today with respect to Mr. Don VanEvery in Caledonia; it would be a year and a half ago that I raised the issue as well. He shot a person and very recently was sentenced to four and a half years in jail. During this court case, it became known that he had 74 previous convictions; 43 of these were gun-related-again, a recent example of why we need an inquiry into the administration of this catch-and-release justice system. This fellow was arrested perhaps 10 years ago on, at that time, many, many charges: possession of restricted weapons, smuggling guns into Canada. At that time, another 40 charges were withdrawn, and upon sentencing, the judge indicated that it was an astonishing array of offences.

This government has to take cues from our election platform. We have to be more proactive in appealing these kinds of orders.

Keep these people out of our communities and right some of the wrongs by supporting this motion put forward today. I put to the members opposite that if you're serious about restoring public confidence in this justice system, it's time to step up and support this motion by Bob Runciman.


The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Further debate?

Mr. Peter Tabuns: On behalf of the NDP, I certainly welcome this opportunity to address the resolution that's been brought forward.

I want to start by sharing with everyone here in this House and in this province my sadness at what has happened recently on our streets. I know that for people who have suffered a loss or suffered injury, this was nothing small in their lives. This was huge in their lives. There were losses incurred that can never, ever be replaced.

Certainly in my riding, Toronto-Danforth, one of the most recent notable killings happened at the Duke of York Tavern-an innocent young woman, standing out in front of that tavern, gunned down. She was just out in the evening air.

So when we discuss these issues, when we consider these issues, we know that there's substantial personal human cost that's attached to the decisions that we make, to the decisions that are made by this government. We owe it to the people of this province, to the people of the families that have been hurt, injured, who have suffered great loss, to deal with these questions substantially, to deal with them thoughtfully and to deal with them effectively. We want, everyone in this House wants and I know everyone out in Ontario wants action taken to stop violent crime.

I have to say it's surprising to me that I would find a common point with the leader of the opposition on this issue, because generally we start from very different philosophical bases-very different. There's no question in my mind that if you want to reduce violent crime, there's a whole host of actions that have to be taken around the social sources of crime if you want to come to grips with it. That being said, there still is the simple reality that in Ontario we have a justice system-judiciary, police, crown attorneys-that deals with the social failures that this society produces, the social mistakes that we as a society perpetuate that put us and our families, our children, at risk.

But the official opposition has a point that in fact there are substantial concerns that people have to have about the administration of criminal justice and the administration of the bail system. It isn't as though we have a perfect system. I was listening to Mr. Bentley, the Attorney General, who was saying, "Whatever we must do, we must do." I would urge him and I would urge his government to take this motion seriously and look at exactly how our bail system works, and focus in.

The decision around granting or not granting bail is a substantial, significant one in our criminal justice system. I've talked to criminal lawyers who've told me that they have clients-and Mr. Kormos here has spoken about this as well-who were taken in on minor charges and held for days at a time before they got a bail hearing. In fact, I've been told by criminal lawyers that one of the things that most often determine whether a person is going to plead guilty or not guilty is whether or not they're still in jail. Police and others make mistakes. So when you have a bail system, a justice system, that takes people and determines right off the likelihood of their pleading guilty or not guilty by whether or not their bail hearing is dealt with in a speedy and intelligent and thoughtful way, then you know you've got a problem.

I say to the government, you have a problem right across the system. What's been raised by the opposition is the whole question of people being released on bail who shouldn't be on the streets after they've been picked up, people who should be held until a trial is convened and it can be determined whether they're innocent or guilty but who, on the basis of all the evidence, the knowledge that a person would have before them, should be treated with extraordinary caution. But this system is one that we hear regularly allows people on the street who engage again in other crimes. Frankly, you have to ask, "So how thorough is this system?"

I was talking to the member from Welland before this debate who suggested to me, and he's right, that what you need is a system of triage, a rapid one, where you're evaluating risk, clearing out the people who are engaged or have been picked up on minor issues because they're clogging up the system, and where you have a substantial issue, a real problem, focusing your resources there and dealing with the problem so that this society is protected.

Again I have to say that the resolution before us asks for an inquiry. It doesn't ask to rewrite the law. It says, "We appear to have a problem." This problem is putting people's lives at risk, and I would add that this problem is putting people's criminal records, their status in society at risk because there are mistakes made in both directions. But all that's being asked for is an assessment of what appears to be a clear problem. If the government is concerned about the issue, if the government sees that there are problems, then this inquiry, this gathering of evidence and making of decisions, is one that it should welcome because, in fact, people recognize that there's a problem. Again, as the minister said, whatever we must do, we must do. I would say to the minister: You have a suggestion, it's a reasonable one that could be supported by people from a variety of different political perspectives, and you should take this resolution to heart and act on it.

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When we look at the numbers in Ontario, when we look at the numbers across Canada, there's no question that in Toronto, as compared to a number of other jurisdictions, in Ontario, as compared to a number other jurisdictions, you can say that we have better numbers on violent crime. But that doesn't mean that there is no problem, and it doesn't mean that there's not a problem that needs to be assessed, analyzed and acted upon. If in fact the government was willing to take this on, they would have the information in their hands to reshape the system because they run the police and the jails. They have the opportunity, through directions to justices of the peace, to make sure that this particular problem that has been cited by the opposition is dealt with.

One of the concerns I have, even though I support this resolution, is the track record of this government, and unfortunately others, of commissioning reports on justice reform and then letting them sit on a shelf and gather dust. After there has been the initial press conference, a media conference, the presentation, the praise for all those involved, the high-sounding words from the government, then the report is put in storage and not seen again until we have this debate and it's mentioned.

We've had a lot of thoughtful recommendations made over the years. They haven't been acted on. I'll give you one instance. The McMurtry report regarding crime victims: The government dismissed one of the more important recommendations-setting up a victims' advocate-just dismissed that out of hand.

So I ask, if we have had these reports, with intelligent recommendations, why is the minister saying that we will do whatever we must do? I think the reality is that that is not the case, that is not what has been happening. That is why the kind of resolution that has come forward today from the opposition is before us and being debated.

We have a system that's clogged and overflowing. I know the member from Welland can speak to that, but in my riding I have a parole officer who deals on a daily basis with people who have been put on parole, on probation, and who have to report to him. His experience is a fairly straightforward one: The jails are so full that even when people violate the terms of their parole or probation, they come to him, he cites them for that, they go before a judge and they're given more probation-it's extended. So, in effect, he has no power to enforce those conditions. When you go to provincial court-and the member from Welland can detail it in a very colourful way-you have this incredible assembly line process of people moving through. But do we have the kind of considered, thoughtful analysis, weighing of the reality, weighing of the consequences, weighing of the facts before us that we need in this society to protect us and to protect the innocent? Apparently not.

We ask the government to take on this resolution, to adopt the resolution, to do the assessment and bring the responses back to this House so that we, here, can make a determination-and frankly, if there are changes that are needed in the Criminal Code, if the federal government has to take on issues, then let us present the evidence. Show us the failings in the Criminal Code, and I would not be surprised if there were failings, based on evidence and make the political argument.

I agree with the member from Welland. There are people who are quite dangerous who need to be contained. I grew up in the east end of Hamilton. The good, working-class area had some people in it who were pretty rough-some of the kids who went to school with me, one of whom I last heard was in Millhaven for having been a major, large-scale cocaine dealer, and I have to tell you, as a child I could have predicted that. There are people who are, in fact, not particularly rehabilitatable. There are people, in fact, who should be set aside in this society.

When you have a system of evaluating those who have been arrested and deciding who can be released because they aren't a threat and those who should be held because they are a threat, it appears to the public and it appears to me and it appears to many members of this Legislature that that system is failing. When this opposition comes forward and says, "You've got a problem. You should be examining it. You should be doing a detailed assessment of whether or not this system is holding up properly so that you can make a decision," then they're acting responsibly. I'd call on the government to act responsibly as well.

The Attorney General talked about the support he has given to initiatives at the federal level, which is all well and good, but here is an area where he doesn't have to advocate to another level of government. He has the power in his hands. He can make the decision. He can set the policies. He can make sure that you have people hired as justices of the peace who have the legal training. Those who don't perform well can be weeded out. All these things are in his hands.

There are times when it's useful to go to the federal government to say, "Look, you have a problem here. You have to act." But too often it's a great excuse for doing nothing when in fact the power is in your hands-the power to make a difference, to address issues that people in this province are deeply concerned about, the power to, from time to time, ensure that someone is not getting bail because they shouldn't be getting bail, and the power to ensure that those who have been picked up on matters that are fairly minor, where there is no threat to the public, are not held for multiple days in jail.

I want to make one last point: The minister talked about two for one, and that people who had time served in a facility shouldn't get double credit for that time on a pretrial basis. When you talk to defence lawyers who have gone into the Don jail, where you have three prisoners to a cell, one of whom sleeps on the floor, whose choice is to have their head at the toilet end or the bar end where the light comes in, you have, to be kind, a Dickensian situation. It is no wonder that any judge who goes in and sees that says, "Anyone who's served time here should get a lot of credit for it because these conditions are intolerable, unsupportable." When you have at the one end that kind of treatment of people who may well be innocent, and at the other the lack of caution and prudence dealing with those who may well be very dangerous, then you have to say, "You have a system that needs to be re-examined."

I call on everyone in this House to support this resolution.


The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Further debate.

Mr. Yasir Naqvi: Thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak on this motion. First and foremost, let me express my utmost sympathy and condolences to the families and friends of every single victim to a senseless crime, the types we have witnessed in the last few days here in Toronto. I think we all collectively agree that there is no justification of such taking away of life, and our hearts, thoughts and sympathies go to the families and their friends. That's why it's extremely important that we discuss this motion and its impact on our judicial system.

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I speak today as a member of this House, obviously, as a lawyer and as a member of my community in Ottawa, which is a large urban metropolitan area. I think we all know that the bail system, as created in Canada, is created at the federal level. That's the first thing you're taught in law school when you're trying to learn between the various jurisdictions and sections 91 and 92 of the Constitution Act. The law around the system, the substantive provisions as to the principal standards to be used, are all dictated or written down in the Criminal Code, which is within the sphere of the House of Commons federally in Ottawa. The case law that emanates is also within the purview of the federal government. So we have to be very careful as to what that bail system comprises. The substantive law, the procedures which are outlined, are not something which we, through this Legislature, can tinker with or alter. Of course, we have to be mindful that we ensure that we enforce the law in a manner that is effective, that provides for public security and community security.

That's why, for me, one of the most important things that I think the majority of us in this House agree we should be striving towards is the banning of handguns. To me, it absolutely has not yet made sense as to why in our society, in this day and age, we allow handguns. They are used to kill people. We've seen killing after killing in which handguns have been used, and we need to make sure that those handguns are banned.

But community safety is a collective effort. We will be debating on Thursday a private member's bill that I have tabled in this House, Bill 106, the Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Act, which talks about closing properties that have been used for illegal purposes, such as gang houses, crack houses, booze cans and marijuana grow-ops. I urge all members in this House to support that bill so that we can clean up illegal properties and illegal activities in our communities and neighbourhoods to make sure that our community, Ontario, is a safe place to live.


The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Further debate?

Mr. John Yakabuski: I'm pleased today to join this debate today in support of the leader of the official opposition's motion to the Premier with respect to bail and the process surrounding bail here in the province of Ontario.

We've heard from some people who have legal experience-lawyers-and that's great and that's important. I'm not a lawyer, but I do talk to people on the street. One of the first things they ask, and one of the first things they're concerned about is-they shake their heads when they listen to the news in the evening or read the papers in the morning and there's a story about a person out on bail with a record as a violent offender committing murder. It sends shudders down their spines, because it can't help but undermine the confidence we should all have in the legal and justice system. But it also puts them in a state of fear, because if you as a member of the public expect that the justice system is there to protect you from violent criminals, and then you read about those violent criminals not only being out and free on bail but committing murder while they're out on bail, you ask yourself, "Who is really protecting us, the members of the public?" That's a fair commentary. That's why whether the Attorney General wants to agree to the leader of the opposition's motion here is not really the relevant fact. We're quite certain they're not going to support this motion. But I don't think he can stand there and deny that the system surrounding bail and the release of violent prisoners in this province is not functioning-certainly not functioning properly; in fact, not functioning at all, probably.

The government will get up and talk or there'll be stories about a raid, a big day, guns and gangs, 60 arrests. I was listening to a news report a couple of weeks ago where they did a big guns-and-gangs sting several months ago. Not one of the people arrested is currently in custody; not one. That's the big news story: "Let's get a lot of arrests; we'll can get guns off of the street." But the reality is that as soon as those criminals are released, the guns are back on the street. They resupply. It's not about guns; it's about people. That's the problem. The bail system is about dealing with people and criminals, and it is not functioning. Until the system does function properly, we're going to continue to have repeat incidents such as the one we're talking about today. We're not speaking about the specifics, but we all know what has driven this debate and the reason for this motion. We're going to hear about more of these until the system that deals with violent offenders and their release on bail is dealt with and fixed. That's what the public inquiry would get to the bottom of. That's why I'm supporting this motion, and I know we have other members of this party who wish to speak on it.


The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Further debate?

Mr. David Zimmer: I want to speak to this. I want to pick up on something that the member for Toronto-Danforth, Peter Tabuns, referred to. He said that the key to this thing is setting up the bail system so that there's an opportunity to do that thoughtful, careful analysis to get that bail decision right.

I just want to speak for a moment about how the system actually works. I'm probably the only member here who's actually worked in the bail courts. I've worked as a crown attorney in bail courts in Brampton and Peel and old city hall here in Toronto, albeit 15 years ago. But those are two of the busiest jurisdictions in Canada. Here's what my experience has been. You're dealing with complicated facts surrounding a crime. You're dealing with victims' rights. You're dealing with the protection of the public. You're dealing with the rights of the accused. You've got very skilled and sophisticated defence lawyers, very skilled and sophisticated prosecutors and a very skilled and sophisticated judiciary. The common interest that they all have, in my experience, is to get the bail decision right. Getting the bail decision right is a balancing act: the victim's rights, the accused's rights and society's rights. In my experience-


Mr. John Yakabuski: That's excuses.

Mr. David Zimmer: This is a serious debate. Why don't you listen to what I'm saying? We're talking about victims' rights.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): I would ask the member to make his remarks directly to the Chair, and I would ask all members of the House to allow him to make those remarks.

Mr. David Zimmer: All of those parties in that process are trying to do their best: They're trying to get the right decision. They're doing that in the context of hundreds, indeed thousands of cases a week there. My experience has been that the vast majority, the overwhelming majority of the decisions, getting that bail decision right-whether it's to release, whether it's to detain, whether it's to protect the public, whether it's to exercise some discretion one way or another-they get it right. Sure, from time to time in all of those hundreds and thousands of cases in a busy, busy jurisdiction like Peel or downtown Toronto, something falls between the cracks. But the solution here is to give those parties the resources that they need, the training resources-more justices of the peace, more crown attorneys, adequately fund the defence lawyers in the legal aid plan who are doing all of this work-so that all of those conscientious parties to that bail decision are best resourced to get the decision right. We don't need a public inquiry here; what we need are more resources. I call on the federal government to step up to the plate and help us provide funding for those resources, so that all of those parties to that bail decision can get the decision right.

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The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Further debate?

Mr. John O'Toole: It's a pleasure to speak on the opposition day motion. I just want to be on the record first as saying that I would be in support of the motion for all the reasons that have been stated. But why I have a particular, deliberate interest is, some months ago-in fact, over the last year or more, the domestic violence issue has engaged me in a general sense across the province with the Lori Dupont Act and the inquest there. I did try to work from the point of view of victims' rights, I guess, and then the right to get a restraining order. That's what my private member's bill, Bill 10, the Lori Dupont Act, is all about.

In speaking with the family, I felt immediately the sense of the victim's perspective. In fact, there had been other reasons to suspect that the perpetrator, the offender, had threatened Ms. Dupont, and it ultimately ended up, tragically, in her death. It's in that case, even as Mr. Runciman was speaking today, that I thought of the mother and her daughter being victimized. If there's some evidence that the person who perpetrated this act had prior convictions and offences proven in some process or court, how could they possibly be on the street?

That's what this is about. It's about the victims' voices being heard in the justice system, and the Attorney General responding to it. In fact, if you look at statistics on bail, which is one of the issues being covered today, the public accounts statistics on that issue are open to the public in Canada, the actual events of bail violations. The people out on bail who have bail violations is increasing. In 2003, in Canada, it was 101,100; in 2006, 106,000-people on bail who are actually off committing another offence. In Ontario, in 2003, it was 35,000, and 400 people re-offended when on bail or at least were charged again; in 2006, it was 37,000. Clearly, crowns and others in this justice system need to focus on the balance that we've heard discussed today.

I would expect that most members would support this because it's an open review. In my notes, as far back as 2004-05, I can tell you that our platform called for this whole thing of visiting the prohibition on violations of people on bail and breaching bail, and that has been debated in this Legislature several times since I've been here. So I expect members would support this opposition day motion and give the Attorney General some real powers to move forward and modify the justice system so it addresses the rights of victims.

With that, I'll relinquish the floor.


The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): The member for Guelph.

Mrs. Liz Sandals: I, too, would like to express my sympathy to families of some of these crimes recently, which have been extraordinarily senseless and very disturbing, obviously, not just to the families but to all of the citizens of Ontario, and to assure listeners that in fact we very seriously take our responsibility to try and make Ontario a safe place for its citizens.

One of the things that is inevitably confusing, especially to those of us who are not lawyers-and I'm not a lawyer-is the way in which the jurisdiction is divvied up between the province and the federal government. Clearly, the federal government is responsible for setting the criminal law, for setting out bail requirements and protocols, for setting out sentencing requirements and protocols. What the province is responsible for is policing, corrections and the administration of the courts. In those areas where we are responsible, we have made some significant changes. We recognize that there is a backlog in the courts. We have hired more crown attorneys, more judges and justices of the peace. We have hired more probation and parole officers on the corrections side. We have provided funding for police forces to hire more police officers. So we are doing our part. In those areas where we can make application, for example, in making application for dangerous offender status, we have done more of those than any other previous government.

But there are still some areas where the feds clearly set the rules and set the protocols. I'd like to speak briefly about sentencing, because I was for a while the parliamentary assistant in Community Safety and Correctional Services. One thing that is problematic is this business of giving double or triple credit for time spent in jail awaiting trial. In my part of the world, unlike what the member from Toronto-Danforth was describing, there is a new jail at Maplehurst. If you are in detention awaiting trial, you're in one wing. When you move to the other wing, if you have been sentenced and convicted, you're simply moving within a building from one wing to another. Nevertheless, the sentencing practice continues to be that judges are giving double or triple credit for the days spent. That's not something that we can fix; that's something we need to have the federal government fix. We've made representations, and I hope that in fact they will listen to that in the future, so that when people are convicted and sentenced, they do serve more of the term to which they have been sentenced.


The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Further debate?

Mrs. Christine Elliott: I am the final speaker from the official opposition to speak in support of this motion today, and I have to say at the outset that I am very proud that the leader of the official opposition has persisted in bringing this matter forward. Public safety, as the member from Welland has indicated, is probably one of the most important things that we have to deal with as legislators in this place, and it is really a shame that it was necessary to bring an opposition day motion forward in order to provoke any kind of debate on this topic.

Meanwhile, public confidence in our justice system is eroding quickly, and this has very serious implications because, of course, our rule of law depends upon the effectiveness of our justice system. My colleague the member from Haldimand-Norfolk quite rightly pointed out in his comments that the Caledonia situation is a situation where the rule of law has been seriously threatened over the past two and a half years, and that situation has continued unabated even up to the present time. Yet time and time again, every time we persist in bringing this matter before this Legislature, all we hear from the members opposite is their concern that we need to pressure the federal government to either ban handguns or to change the bail system. But with respect, that's not what this debate is about. This debate is about what this provincial government, the McGuinty government, can and should be doing to make sure that our justice system functions effectively.

The catalyst, of course, for this debate arises out of the violent sexual assaults and deaths of two innocent women in the security of their own home. The person who was accused of these assaults and murders had been released previously pending trial on six counts, including two counts of aggravated sexual assault. But, of course, we're not here to discuss the merits of this particular case, because this matter is before the courts, nor do we want to place the blame, quite frankly, on any one person or judge. And again, the member from Welland quite rightly pointed out that we have an excellent bench here in Ontario. Their credentials could not be challenged and I wouldn't challenge them. I believe we have an excellent bench here in Ontario.

However, there is clearly a systemic problem with our bail system here in Ontario that needs to be addressed, yet it hasn't been, to date. But the problem here is that we don't even know the nature and extent of the problem. How can the Attorney General continue to say that he wants to work with our justice partners to improve the system when he doesn't even know what the problem is? We don't keep statistics regarding bail violations and repeat offences committed by people out on bail, which is inconceivable to most people. This is a government that keeps track of the number of eggs laid in Ontario, but they're not keeping these important judicial statistics.

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The argument has been made that we can't keep these statistics because it will threaten judicial independence, but we're not talking about that. When our leader brought forward the Truth and Transparency in the Justice System Act in December 2006, what we were talking about was changing the Courts of Justice Act in order to keep general records of what is happening in the courts and where the problems are so that they can be addressed. How could we possibly start trying to fix a problem when we can't even articulate what that problem is?

I would say that when this bill was voted down by the government, we lost an opportunity there to do something concrete in order to fix our justice system, but something has to be done now. This is an opportunity for this government to take the necessary steps to commence this inquiry to find out what's wrong because, if this situation continues, quite clearly we're going to have a situation where our rule of law is going to completely break down. If that happens, there are going to be dire consequences for this province.

I implore the government members to reconsider their position on this bill. Please support it. Please do what you need to do to find out what the problem is so that we can collectively work on a solution. People in Ontario expect us to do that: to work together to find a solution.


The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Further debate? I recognize the member for Oakville.

Mr. Kevin Daniel Flynn: Let me start by expressing my own condolences, and I think any member of the House would express those condolences to any family that's been touched by violent crime or by the types of actions we witnessed over the weekend. It makes you think, as an individual who has grown up-I'm now 53, but I grew up during most of my early days in Canada, and you really wonder: Have guns and violence become much more prevalent in our society? Have they become more acceptable in our society? Are they something that we choose to accept or that we hear more and more about? Is it just that the information is there, or are we finding out about the crime?

I spend a lot of time talking to the chief of police and the police association in Oakville, in the region of Halton. We've got a fantastic police association there who are very quick to provide information to you as-you would know this, Speaker-a member of this Legislature who needs that type of information. I've always found the police association to be a good group of reasonable people you can go to and you can get that information. The chief of police and the other members of the Halton Regional Police Service provide that information as well.

Lately, they've been talking much more about the gang issue. It used to be that in Oakville you didn't hear about gangs. Gangs were something that happened in the urban setting, or perhaps you heard more about them in the rural setting. But as populations have grown, as we've seen the effects of urban sprawl, we've watched that crime start to creep into our own community. I don't want to come across as a bleeding heart, because I've got absolutely no sympathy for anybody who uses a gun in the commission of a crime or even carries a gun. I just have no time for that. That's not a part of what I think is a reasonable human being who belongs in our society.

But sometimes you see things that happen, as we've seen on the weekend, and yet, when you look at the crime stats in Ontario, they're the lowest in Canada. When you look at the crime stats, you also find that places that you think are safe are actually among the least safe in Canada. I think, as a case in point, that Victoria, BC, which I've always thought of as a quaint little community where grandmothers may go and drink English tea in the afternoon, actually has a very high crime rate. So sometimes the stats and the information you receive through the media are not exactly up to date.

We put 1,000 police officers on the street, we've got more crown attorneys, more judges, justices of the peace, more parole officers, probation officers, and you really have to wonder where the guns are coming from. How do we stem those guns? I think we need a multi-faceted approach to this, but clearly it's an issue that perhaps calls for more action. The last thing that I think we need to do at this point in time, despite the member's bringing it forward, I think, with the best of intentions and bringing an important issue to this House, is to have a gabfest and sit around and have a public inquiry-perhaps some more action, perhaps some improvements, but certainly it's a time for action and not a time for talk.


The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Further debate? I recognize the Minister of Tourism.

Hon. Monique M. Smith: I, too, am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to this motion today. I had an opportunity to speak to the original motion last week with some concern, but I am pleased today to be able to join with my colleagues in definitely passing on our condolences to those families who have been impacted by violence in their lives in our communities. Be it in their own homes or out on a Saturday night, I think we're all shocked to hear of the level of violence in some of these circumstances. I think it's very important that we address these things, and certainly the McGuinty government has been addressing them over the last five years.

I was pleased to note that the member for Whitby-Oshawa now joins with me in seeing that discussing specific cases is inappropriate in this House, in this Legislature, and that in fact they did change their motion to talk about a broader topic of discussion. But again, I wish the members opposite would take up this issue with their federal brethren.

I am encouraged by the fact that Ontario continues to have the lowest crime rate of any province in Canada, and I think it's important that we not lose sight of that. I am also encouraged by our government's position in pushing the federal government for a stronger bail system. We pushed the federal government to set out in the Criminal Code of Canada the availability and procedures for accused persons to seek bail, and we've made changes to those provisions. We pushed the federal government to bring in reverse-onus bail provisions for serious gun crimes, and we were successful in that. We pushed the federal government to bring in more mandatory sentences for those who use guns in crimes, and we were successful in that.

We've also asked the federal government to limit any sentencing credit for pre-trial custody to a maximum ratio of 1.5 to 1 generally and a maximum ratio of one to one when the accused has been detained due to a prior criminal record or for having violated a bail condition. We will continue to press the federal government to strengthen the Youth Criminal Justice Act to protect our communities from youth who need to be kept in custody.

But we have been tough on crime, and as a government we have made unprecedented investments in fighting gun crime in particular and supporting anti-violence strategies across the province. We've put more than 1,000 police officers on the street, and of that I am very proud. We have a comprehensive four-point plan to stop the proliferation of gun-related crime. This plan includes tougher, more effective laws relating to firearms, including calling on the federal government to bring in a national handgun ban. Again, I take this opportunity to ask members on the other side of the House to join with us in this request of their federal brethren and see to it that we do limit the number of handguns out on the streets.

We also have anti-gun-smuggling measures to prevent the flow of illegal guns across the Canada-United States borders. We have requested this a number of times from our federal cousins, and again it falls on deaf ears. I know that as the members opposite are so committed to this particular issue, they will be taking this up with their federal cousins.

We are also looking for the strengthening of law enforcement. As I said, we have put 1,000 police officers on the street. We would like to see our federal counterparts come to the fore and meet the obligations and commitments that they've made.

I would quote the Canadian Police Association president, who noted that public safety-

Interjection.


The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Please take your seat.

I would ask the members of the House to refrain from heckling the Minister of Tourism so that I can hear her.

I return to the Minister of Tourism.


Hon. Monique M. Smith: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I actually couldn't hear myself speak because of the member from Ottawa. It's awfully nice when you can manage to contain it somewhat.

I was trying to quote the Canadian Police Association president, who stated:

"Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day has fumbled the ball and failed to deliver on a key government commitment.... We have been waiting two years for this minister to deliver on the Prime Minister's promise, and we are disappointed by the short-sighted and inadequate response."

This from the Canadian Police Association on the need for more municipal police officers-failure on the part of the federal government to provide that kind of leadership.

Again, I'd like to just reiterate our government's commitment to safety and to the safe well-being of our citizens across the province. I note again with some optimism that we do maintain our status as the province with the least amount of violence, but it is something that we have to continue to work on as we see these violent incidents erupting in our communities of late. It is of deep concern to us that all people in the province feel safe, be they in our rural settings or in our municipal settings.

I know that it was with the greatest of intentions that the member for Leeds-Grenville brought forward this motion, but I would agree with my colleague who sits behind me that in fact this is not a time for more talk; it is a time for action. I would ask that the members opposite turn to their federal cousins and ask for some action on this file and join with us in encouraging the federal government to take more action with respect to our bail system, with respect to gun violence, in our province and across the country.

I thank you, Mr. Speaker, for the opportunity to speak to this motion today.


The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): The time for this debate has expired. Mr. Runciman has moved opposition day number 3:

"Whereas the alarming number of murders and other violent crimes allegedly committed by violent criminals who were out on bail for other alleged violent crimes in Ontario raises Ontarians' fears for their safety and shakes the public's confidence in the administration of justice in Ontario; and

"Whereas the issue of violent crimes alleged to have been committed by people out on bail when they should have been behind bars based on their past criminal behaviour is a serious public safety problem that the McGuinty government has failed to address since being first elected in 2003;

"The Legislature of Ontario calls on the McGuinty government to call a public inquiry into Ontario's bail system."

Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?

All those in favour of the motion will please say "aye."

All those opposed will please say "nay."

In my opinion, the nays have it.

Call in the members. This will be a 10-minute bell.

The division bells rang from 1751 to 1801.


The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Mr. Runciman has moved opposition day number 3. All those in favour of the motion will please rise one at a time.

Ayes

Bailey, Robert

Barrett, Toby

Elliott, Christine

Gélinas, France

Hudak, Tim

Klees, Frank

Kormos, Peter

MacLeod, Lisa

Miller, Norm

Murdoch, Bill

O'Toole, John

Runciman, Robert W.

Scott, Laurie

Sterling, Norman W.

Wilson, Jim

Yakabuski, John


The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): All those opposed to the motion will please rise.

Nays

Albanese, Laura

Balkissoon, Bas

Bartolucci, Rick

Brown, Michael A.

Carroll, Aileen

Colle, Mike

Craitor, Kim

Crozier, Bruce

Delaney, Bob

Dickson, Joe

Duncan, Dwight

Flynn, Kevin Daniel

Hoy, Pat

Jaczek, Helena

Jeffrey, Linda

Kular, Kuldip

Kwinter, Monte

Lalonde, Jean-Marc

Mangat, Amrit

Mauro, Bill

McMeekin, Ted

McNeely, Phil

Meilleur, Madeleine

Mitchell, Carol

Moridi, Reza

Naqvi, Yasir

Pendergast, Leeanna

Phillips, Gerry

Qaadri, Shafiq

Ramal, Khalil

Rinaldi, Lou

Ruprecht, Tony

Sandals, Liz

Smith, Monique

Smitherman, George

Sorbara, Greg

Takhar, Harinder S.

Van Bommel, Maria

Watson, Jim

Wilkinson, John

Zimmer, David


The Clerk of the Assembly (Ms. Deborah Deller): The ayes are 16; the nays are 41.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): I declare the motion lost.

Motion negatived.


The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): It being past 6 of the clock, this House stands adjourned until tomorrow morning at 9 a.m.

The House adjourned at 1804.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

ORDERS OF THE DAY / ORDRE DU JOUR

INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS / PRÉSENTATION DES VISITEURS

ORAL QUESTIONS / QUESTIONS ORALES

INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS / PRÉSENTATION DES VISITEURS

MEMBERS' STATEMENTS / DÉCLARATIONS DES DÉPUTÉS

REPORTS BY COMMITTEES / RAPPORTS DES COMITÉS

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS / DÉPÔT DES PROJETS DE LOI

STATEMENTS BY THE MINISTRY AND RESPONSES / DÉCLARATIONS MINISTÉRIELLES ET RÉPONSES

PETITIONS / PÉTITIONS

OPPOSITION DAY / JOUR DE L'OPPOSITION

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