19 April 2010
CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY
Thanks Rob Nicholson for that introduction, and for the great job you do as Canada’s Minister of Justice and Attorney General. Greetings also to the Honourable John Baird, to Steve Sullivan, federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime, and of course to all distinguished guests from the law enforcement community and from victims’ rights organizations.
And a special greeting to everybody here at the fifth annualNational Victims Awareness Week – an event initiated by our government – for victims of crime and for all the people who have worked so hard as advocates on behalf of victims.
The work that you do isn’t easy, but you show every day that victims matter, and you know, it’s not for nothing. The advocacy role played by victims’ groups has had an important part in shaping our government’s policies in this area. I salute you, Canadians salute you, all of you, for the work that you do.
Ladies and gentlemen, the past few weeks have been frustrating. We learned that mass-murderer Clifford Olson receives his old-age pension in jail. He has the blood of 11 children on his hands. The taxpayers already pay to keep him locked up, for the protection of society and for the rest of his life, but he also gets a pension.
We also learned that convicted sex offender Graham James received a pardon, quietly, three years ago. Even though he ruined the lives of boys who just wanted to play hockey, he can travel without having to admit his criminal record.
That too is offensive.
But that, my friends, is how the laws have been written: written over the past few decades when soft-on-crime attitudes were fashionable, and concern for criminals took priority over compassion for victims.
For many years now, the vast majority of Canadians have found that deeply offensive. Now, they find it unacceptable.
Yet for now, the law remains, and the law will allow Karla Homolka to apply for a pardon this year.
In fact, more than 99 per cent of pardon applications that reach the adjudication stage are granted.
So I’ve asked Vic Toews, Minister of Public Safety, to see what can be done.
It will take time. The problems run deep. But we will keep pushing forward. There is still so much to do to fix the criminal justice system. Our Conservative Government has always made the protection of law-abiding Canadians one of our very top priorities.
We have always put the safety of law-abiding Canadians first.
And we have always believed that every victim matters.
That’s why one of our first actions upon taking office in 2006 was to introduce the Federal Victims Strategy. Since then, the Government has committed over fifty million dollars to this Strategy.
We created the Office of the Ombudsman for Victims of Crime, an independent resource for victims.
We passed a Truth in Sentencing law eliminating the two-for-one credit that criminals get for time served in custody prior to sentencing.
We’ve cracked down on organized crime, including drug crime, with tougher sentences. And we passed the Tackling Violent Crime Act, better protecting 14 and 15 year olds, for the first time, from sexual predators.
We gave police and judges the tools they need to deal with impaired drivers.
To help combat white-collar crime, we will re-introduce legislation to provide stronger sentences.
Friends, in a minority parliament, where we have had to fight on every single reform, day in and day out, in both Houses, these are real accomplishments. They are a real start that makes Canadians safer.
We are continuing those efforts. We’re pressing onwards with important initiatives including ending ‘house arrest’ for serious crimes and repealing
the ‘faint hope’ clause to spare victims from having to re-live their terrible experiences.
And, as promised in the Speech from the Throne, we will be moving forward with several key pieces of legislation.
We’re working to give police investigative powers for the 21st century; crucial tools to solve crimes and protect Canadians.
We are strengthening the youth criminal justice system. We’ve introduced Sébastien’s Law, because violent and repeat young offenders need to be kept off the streets while awaiting trial, and because the courts need to consider appropriate sentences for youth convicted of the most serious crimes.
And we are working to support victims of crime directly by facilitating access to EI benefits for family members of victims of crime and the right to unpaid leave for workers in federally-regulated industries; and we are making the victim surcharge mandatory to better fund victim services.
Friends, further delays and obstruction of these measures should not be acceptable. Not while serial killers collect pensions, and serial sex offenders gain pardons.
We must change the worldview that believes such things are defensible.
So I’m here today to call on Parliament to recognize that every victim matters, to get tough on criminals and protect law-abiding Canadians by passing our vital law and order legislation.
I understand that you have a busy schedule at today’s symposium. I wish you a productive day. Canadians are behind you. Thank you for your work.