Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs

THE STANDING SENATE COMMITTEE ON LEGAL AND CONSTITUTIONAL AFFAIRS

EVIDENCE


OTTAWA, Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, to which was referred Bill C-10, An Act to enact the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act and to amend the State Immunity Act, the Criminal Code, the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, the Youth Criminal Justice Act, the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and other Acts, met this day at 10:30 a.m. to give consideration to the bill.

Senator John D. Wallace (Chair) in the chair.

[English]

The Chair: Good morning and welcome, Senate colleagues, invited guests and members of the general public who are viewing today's hearing on the CPAC television network. I am John Wallace, a senator from New Brunswick, and I am Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs.

Today we continue our consideration of Bill C-10, An Act to enact the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act and to amend the State Immunity Act, the Criminal Code, the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, the Youth Criminal Justice Act, the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and other Acts. This bill groups together nine bills that have been dealt with separately during the previous Third Session of the Fortieth Parliament.

Bill C-10 was introduced in the House of Commons on September 20, 2011, by the Minister of Justice, the Honourable Rob Nicholson. The bill underwent several weeks of consideration in the house before being introduced in the Senate on December 6, 2011. This bill was referred to this committee by the Senate on December 16, 2011, for detailed study.

In order to complete our examination of the bill, this committee intends to hold extended and additional hearings. As a result, we have scheduled 11 days of public hearings, including all-day meetings during the week of February 20 to 24, 2012. These hearings will be open to the public and will also be available via webcast on the www.parl.gc.ca website.

In addition to representatives and officials from the federal, provincial and territorial governments, we will be hearing testimony from victims of crime and their families, academics, legal experts, law enforcement specialists, youth advocates, as well as representatives of various associations, stakeholders and others working in the field of criminal justice. In total, the committee has invited approximately 110 witnesses. More information on the scheduling of the witnesses can be found on the www.parl.gc.ca website under the heading "Senate Committees."

Before introducing our guests who have joined us today, I would first invite each of our Senate committee members to introduce themselves, if they would, and identify the regions that they represent, beginning with Senator Fraser.

Senator Fraser: My name is Joan Fraser. I represent Quebec, and I am the deputy chair of the committee.

Senator Baker: George Baker, Newfoundland and Labrador.

[Translation]

Senator Joyal: Serge Joyal from Quebec.

Senator Chaput: Maria Chaput from Manitoba.

[English]

Senator Jaffer: Mobina Jaffer, from British Columbia.

Senator Lang: Dan Lang, Yukon.

Senator Meredith: Don Meredith, Ontario.

Senator Angus: David Angus, Quebec.

[Translation]

Senator Boisvenu: Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu, Quebec.

[English]

Senator Frum: Linda Frum, Ontario.

Senator Runciman: Bob Runciman, Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes, Ontario.

The Chair: To begin or public hearings today, I am pleased to welcome the Honourable Daniel Shewchuk, the Minister of Justice for the Government of Nunavut. Accompanying the minister is Norman Tarnow, Deputy Minister of Justice for the Government of Nunavut, and Stephen Mansell, Director of Policy and Planning.

Minister Shewchuk, welcome to the Senate. I understand you have an opening statement to make. Following your statement, I am sure there will be many questions of interest from senators.

Hon. Daniel Shewchuk, Minister of Justice, Government of Nunavut: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. First, I would like to say it is a privilege to be here in front of you and your committee today. It is an honour for us from Nunavut. I think it is one of the first times we have come down to appear before the Senate.

To put a little perspective on our great territory, I would like to tell you something to keep in the back of your mind when I am making my presentation and you follow with questions.

Nunavut is our newest territory, formed in 1999. It is a vast territory. It is one fifth the land mass of this country, and it is two thirds the coastline of this country. Keep that in mind when you are listening to us.

We have 25 communities spread across that vast territory, and we are very proud of each community and the citizens that live in those communities. With that, I would like to make my statement.

I welcome this opportunity to appear before the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs on an issue that is important to the Government of Nunavut, to Nunavummiut and, indeed, to Canadians as a whole — the implications of Bill C-10, the proposed safe streets and communities act. More specifically, I want to address its impact on Nunavut and its people.

Several other justice ministers have expressed concern about the fiscal and social effects of this bill. Nunavut is likely to be the most affected by the new legal regime created by Bill C-10, particularly as it relates to Nunavummiut offenders and the reduction of our judges' discretion in exercising their sentencing functions.

As you are aware, the Canadian crime rate has generally been in decline. Sadly, Nunavut has been an exception to this trend. The territory has the highest violent crime rate of all Canadian jurisdictions, six times higher than the national average. Bill C-10's emphasis on incarceration through its mandatory minimum sentencing provisions will guarantee an influx of prisoners into our territorial jails, which are already overcrowded and unsafe, and will create an even larger backlog in our courthouse.

At the present time, over 15 outstanding cases of murder and manslaughter are before the Nunavut Court of Justice. These are the most severe criminal justice matters handled by our judiciary. These trials take place in communities separated by hundreds or thousands of kilometres and require the deployment of tremendous human logistical resources, which is very much a challenge in the North. The mandatory minimum sentencing provisions of the bill will add to the challenges we face in our already overburdened court system. Similar consequences will be felt in our correctional system.

The Baffin Correctional Centre, or BCC, is a minimum security facility and currently the only adult male correctional facility in operation in Nunavut. BCC was built in 1984 for 48 inmates but now regularly holds 90 to 100 inmates. A new facility of 48 beds in Rankin Inlet is scheduled to open in the summer of 2012. This institutional bed space will be automatically filled to meet our overcrowding challenges and to repatriate some of the Nunavut offenders who we have had sent to the Northwest Territories and Ontario because we have not had the space for them in Nunavut.

To compensate for the overcrowding in our correctional facility, an average of 55 offenders have been sent to southern correctional facilities at an annual cost of $4.7 million. It is very difficult to provide culturally appropriate programming or counselling for Inuit offenders outside of Nunavut.

The proposed bill will result in more overcrowding in Nunavut and more Inuit offenders being sent to southern facilities. These additional inmates and court cases will result in greater operational costs for our Corrections and Court Services Divisions and add to the already immense capital cost of a new correctional facility in Iqaluit by hundreds of millions of dollars.

Most Nunavut offenders caught up in the criminal justice system deal with the cyclical repercussions of family violence, poverty, substance and alcohol abuse, and often mental illness. Bill C-10 will divert the financial resources that we require to address the root causes of criminal behaviour and to fund rehabilitation programs to support a punishment model that will add further stress to our already overburdened corrections infrastructure and courts.

A majority of the crime committed in Nunavut is fuelled by alcohol abuse, a sign that underlying conditions drive our high crime rates. A recent pilot program partnering our Department of Health and Social Services and the RCMP has demonstrated that most habitually intoxicated people are prepared to seek help for their addiction if they know where to go and what to do. In the first six months of the program, 147 addicted people were arrested at least twice. Seventy-eight of them agreed to get help. For those 78, 67 of them have not been back into custody. This is a small example of the cooperation and commitment of our institutions and of the benefits of our rehabilitative-focused justice strategy that is working in Nunavut.

Nunavut, however, needs sustainable solutions to meet these challenging issues through appropriate funding levels for development and infrastructure. We also need our judiciary to have the flexibility to allow us to try these types of programs and to design programs that work because incarceration is not the long-term solution to our problems.

We all agree that we should work together to make our country a safer and more just place for everyone. Recognizing the roots of criminal behaviour and addressing these concerns through treatment and programming is a more cost-effective strategy than long, inflexible sentencing.

Many studies have found that harsher criminal justice sanctions actually increase the likelihood of repeat offenders and that higher incarceration rates do not equate to lower crime rates. Similarly, policy-makers south of our borders and in Australia have realized that jailing more people for longer periods of time is costly and ineffective. Tough mandatory minimums in Texas and California have resulted in prison overcrowding and a strain on the justice system that has done little to decrease crime rates. We must learn from the experience of these other jurisdictions.

Bill C-10's emphasis on increased jail time and mandatory minimums will have a specific effect on Nunavut, home of the most Inuit in Canada and the creation of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement. Some Bill C-10 provisions conflict with the values and principles of Nunavut's justice system, which is based on traditional Inuit concepts of justice and rehabilitation. Justice in Nunavut has always been intended to reflect the population and the culture of the territory, which is predominantly Inuit. Incarceration does not equate to the values of the people who have been living off the land for thousands of years. As well, mandatory minimums do not allow for traditional community and elder involvement in the justice system, as the outcome is predetermined by the minimum mandatory sentence, regardless of community opinion or involvement.

The importance of Inuit traditional justice has been recognized by our Nunavut Court of Justice in its jurisprudence, as have Inuit societal values, practised long before the creation of our country. Reducing our judges' discretion by mandating minimum sentencing for many of the offenses committed in Nunavut will have an impact on the application of alternative sentencing and Inuit traditional, community-based, restorative justice measures.

This impact will also be felt in the application of recognized sentencing principles developed by the Supreme Court of Canada in the R. v. Gladue case. The sentencing principles outlined in Gladue are a measured and appropriate response to the dramatic overrepresentation of Aboriginal Canadians within the Canadian justice system and to the disadvantages that historical abuse and poverty pose for many Aboriginal people in Canada. The Gladue principles do not mean that Aboriginal offenders will always receive less harsh sentences. They simply mean that the court must look at the realities of life of Aboriginal Canadians and take these issues into account when imposing a sentence.

In Nunavut, the court has taken Gladue into account in a good number of cases in order to come to just and fair sentences. Inuit in Canada face historical and socio-economic challenges that Gladue and the Nunavut Court of Justice mandate should be taken into account when sentencing an Inuit offender. Mandatory minimum sentencing ignores the Gladue case law and ties the court's hands when dealing with Aboriginal offenders.

The Government of Nunavut believes that taking away discretion from judges is not the right approach. Our Nunavut-based judges play a critical role in the operation of our criminal justice system in Nunavut. The mandatory minimum sentences proposed by Bill C-10 would remove the discretion from sentencing judges to effectively determine which sentence can best balance all fundamental objectives of sentencing. Prohibiting our judges from exercising their discretion to determine an appropriate sentence for an offender before them is contrary to the spirit and the letter of a large body of jurisprudence that recognizes the unique position of sentencing judges in assessing and determining the most appropriate sentence in individual cases.

There are good reasons for conferring discretion on a judge charged with imposing a fit sentence. The judge has heard the particular circumstances and evidence of the offence and the offender and is best able to craft a sentence that will balance all of the goals of sentencing. The judge is also best equipped to assess what will address the needs and circumstances of the community where the crime occurred. This argument is especially strong in Nunavut, where our resident judges have become expert in dealing with the unique circumstances and the population of our territory. The "one size fits all" solution of mandatory minimum sentencing does not fit in a unique region of Canada such as ours.

The Criminal Code contains a statutory acknowledgement of the principle of restraint, stating that the purpose of sentencing is to separate offenders from society only where necessary. Section 718.1 of the Criminal Code states that proportionality is the fundamental principle of sentencing and that a sentence must be proportionate to the gravity of the offence and the degree of the responsibility of the offender. Proportionality reflects the delicate balance that must be achieved in fashioning a just sentence. Nunavut respectfully submits that Bill C-10 as it reads does not strike this balance.

In addition to being the newest territory in Canada, Nunavut also has the youngest population in Canada and the most rapid population growth. The tougher youth crime measures in Bill C-10 will mean that more of our young people will end up incarcerated. This will have a serious impact on our communities and on our families. With what we are learning about the benefits of addressing the root causes of criminal behaviour through the treatment of underlying substance abuse, locking up more youth would be counterproductive.

The decision to allow the publishing of young offenders' names causes us concern as this will cause a stigma and embarrassment for our young persons and their families in Nunavut in very small, interconnected communities. Additionally, Bill C-10 requires an assessment to determine the impact of publishing a young offender's name. We in Nunavut do not have the facilities or specialists needed to conduct this type of assessment. We will therefore be forced to fly young offenders south for the required testing, at a tremendous cost.

Finally, I would like to speak of consultation. Bill C-10 will clearly have a great effect on each and every province and territory both socially and financially. The amendments to the Criminal Code in the bill are a major change in the sentencing regime in this country and signal a shift in the general philosophy behind our criminal justice system. As well, as previously outlined, mandatory minimum sentencing and tougher penalties will result in greater costs for the provinces and territories, as their jails and courts see an influx of new clients. A transformative bill of this importance should be the subject of extensive consultation with all stakeholders, particularly provinces and territories.

Bill C-10 was introduced in September 2011 and was passed by the House of Commons in December. At no time was our government asked for its opinion or invited to address the House of Common's committee. While I thank this committee for the opportunity to speak, more consultation prior to the introduction and passage of Bill C-10 in the lower house should have occurred. Prior to introducing any substantive bill, our government consults with any and all interested parties. Bill C-10 was never given a chance to be molded and improved by provincial and territorial experience and comment. We strongly believe that, if given the chance, our government and our provincial and territorial colleagues could have offered support and counsel that would have lessened the cost of this bill and helped the federal government to better appreciate our concerns about mandatory minimums.

All indications are that the Government of Canada intends to implement the measures of Bill C-10. I am therefore asking you to take into account that this decision and this bill will no doubt disproportionately affect Nunavut. I therefore ask that the Government of Canada work with the Government of Nunavut to ensure Nunavut is given the financial support needed to tackle the new judicial and correctional measures that Bill C-10 will bring about. In the meantime, I ask that the implementation of this bill be put off to allow adequate time for the Government of Nunavut, in conjunction with the Government of Canada, to develop the necessary infrastructure to accommodate this new burden on our justice and corrections system.

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair, for allowing us to be here today.

The Chair: Thank you for those comments, minister. We will now proceed to questions from our committee members, beginning with Deputy Chair Senator Fraser.

Senator Fraser: Welcome again, minister. You made several very interesting points. Let me begin, if I may, with the question of consultation between the federal and territorial governments.

We have been told a number of times that at meetings of federal-provincial-territorial justice ministers, many if not most of the provisions in this bill had been requested by at least provincial ministers. I cannot swear that the territories were included in that statement. Was Nunavut at those conferences and, if so, what position did it take?

Mr. Shewchuk: I know there has been minimal consultation, but I will let my deputy minister answer further. Just for all of you, I am a brand new Minister of Justice in our government. I have only been there for two months, but Deputy Minister Tarnow has been around, and I will let him answer that question.

Norman Tarnow, Acting Deputy Minister of Justice, Government of Nunavut: As you noted, there have been discussions at the level of officials concerning some of the measures. We have not had an opportunity at the political level to give the kind of input that we needed to do. As you know, the government decided it wanted to implement, put into effect or pass these measures very quickly following the last election. I think that is part of our problem. It has just been too rushed.

Senator Fraser: On a slightly different topic, from the broad thrust of your presentation, minister, and from what little I know about Nunavut, which is not nearly enough, I would assume that your primary concerns with this bill would relate to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, some of the amendments to the Criminal Code, and the Youth Criminal Justice Act. Would that be fair?

Mr. Shewchuk: Yes, it would be fair to say those are ones we are concerned with. The real concern that addresses all those issues —

Senator Fraser: Mandatory minimums?

Mr. Shewchuk: Exactly.

Senator Fraser: If it were possible to amend this bill, trying to square circles here, given that the government really believes in the mandatory minimum schema it has outlined, would your problem be addressed if a clause were to be inserted to restore judicial discretion, particularly in the case of Aboriginal offenders? Would that meet your needs?

Mr. Shewchuk: That would absolutely meet our needs. One of the main messages we are bringing here today is that we would very much like the flexibility to be present in our court system with our judges to deal with our issues and our differences in Nunavut in the way our justice system works. You stated it very well. A clause like that would be wonderful for us.

Senator Runciman: Welcome, minister. I just wanted to reference a couple of comments you made about crime rates. We heard statistics here yesterday in terms of the areas addressed by this legislation that indicated those rates are on the increase. General crime rates, using Statistics Canada data, may be on the decline, but the areas impacted by this legislation are in fact increasing.

You talked about the population in your facilities right now. How many of those are on remand? Can you give us a breakdown of how many inmates are sentenced and how many are on remand?

Mr. Shewchuk: That is a very good question. Yes, our crime rates are high compared to the national average, especially with respect to substance abuse. Our men's facility in Iqaluit right now, as I said, is built for 48 inmates, and we have a population there of close to 100. Approximately 67 per cent of those are on remand, waiting to go through the court system.

It is actually a very critical situation. I went on a tour of the facility just 10 days ago, and it has actually gotten to the point where we have to be concerned about the safety of our inmates and of the people who work there.

Senator Runciman: Has the legislation brought in last year with respect to the removal of the 2-for-1 credit had no impact on the remand population? What is the average stay in your territorial lock-up?

Mr. Shewchuk: I will have Mr. Tarnow answer that question.

Mr. Tarnow: The stay is too long at the moment.

Senator Runciman: Do you have a number?

Mr. Tarnow: I do not have the number offhand here, but it is a big problem.

Senator Runciman: Is that as a result of a lack of court facilities? What is the reason? If these are primarily serious offences, can a justice of the peace deal with them? I am curious about why this would be a clogging problem, if you will.

Mr. Tarnow: I have just been given some information. Ten to fourteen months is the average.

Senator Runciman: That is high. I would have to take a look at the breakdown of the offences, but in Ontario, for instance, the average stay is about 75 days in terms of a sentenced inmate. Are you talking about mostly remands that are clogging the system up in terms of lengthy waits to go to trial?

Mr. Tarnow: Yes.

Mr. Shewchuk: You are absolutely right, the numbers are high. You have to appreciate that many waiting in remand are serious offences, so the caseload on our judges is absolutely huge.

We have been privileged to have been provided two more federal judges, which will help our system and our caseload. Our circuit courts have to travel vast expanses, thousands of miles, and we have a lot of barriers that come into play, such as weather, travel and airplanes. Therefore, when a court is cancelled, it is a huge process to schedule that court again. There are a lot of variables and factors that contribute to the difficulty.

Senator Runciman: You mentioned your concern about mandatory minimum penalties. I think judges have discretion with respect to substance abuse treatment programs. They can look at that as an option to mandatory minimums. If an accused successfully completes an abuse treatment program, they can escape the mandatory minimums.

The other area with respect to mandatory minimums really, in my view, only affects drug dealers and child molesters. They will not impose as heavy a burden as I think you are concerned about.

I am intrigued about your costs in corrections as well. Do you have an average cost on an annual basis for the incarceration of an inmate? You talked about 55 inmates going south at a cost of $4.7 million, so you are getting close to $90,000 per inmate. What is the cost to house an inmate in your jurisdiction on a yearly basis?

Mr. Shewchuk: I can tell you that it is probably an average of $200 per day within our territory. The inmates that we send south to Ontario cost us an average of $190 per day, and the ones we have housed in Yellowknife are about $240 per day.

Senator Runciman: You talked about treatment programs as well. I am not personally opposed to the idea of using other jurisdictions to provide services. In terms of mental health treatment for corrections inmates, for example, smaller jurisdictions simply do not have the wherewithal to provide everything across the map, so I think utilization of other jurisdictions' resources is a wise policy decision, at least one that should be considered.

I have a number of other questions, but I will ask them in the second round.

Senator Jaffer: Thank you for being here, minister. When I first started practising law, I worked for a man who used to be a well-known Supreme Court justice, Tommy Dohm. He taught me to always remember that when you have an accused in front of you, you do not throw the key away. Sooner or later, the majority of people do return to society, and you cannot have a cookie-cutter approach to all accused; you have to treat everyone separately.

In your presentation you mentioned the discretion of judges a number of times. What is upsetting about Bill C-10 is that it is removing the discretion of judges, especially when it comes to minorities. We have a large population of Aboriginal people and Black Canadians in jails, and the numbers are increasing. Jail is not always the answer.

Minister, you have said it in your presentation, but I would like to hear from you: How will taking away the discretion of judges affect healing circles, for example?

Mr. Shewchuk: Taking away discretion from the judges and the courts system as we have it now will largely affect us, not only in our corrections and the increasing number of inmates who come to our facilities, but communities and families being involved in the rehabilitation of offenders, which is a very important part of the Inuit culture. Taking that away from families will affect the whole community. In the small, tight, Inuit cultural communities in Nunavut, it is very important that we understand and accommodate that.

Senator Jaffer: Healing circles is something my personal Islamic community has adopted because we believe it really is effective. As the minister, you deal with operational issues. How will Bill C-10 affect plea bargaining? What will it do to your backlog?

Mr. Shewchuk: Effectively, it will take away plea bargaining. People will know there is a minimum sentence, and it will increase our people who come into our correctional facilities, and at a faster rate, I believe. It will affect us in a negative way, I believe.

The Chair: Senator Jaffer, again, I am aware of time, and we have a number of senators with further questions. I suspect you have other questions. Would you mind perhaps putting them into a second round? I want to make certain that each senator has a chance on the first round.

Senator Lang: The question I would like to pursue is the question of the intent of the legislation, which is primarily there for repeat offenders, those who have made a career of crime or violence or both in communities. My understanding is that there have been meetings over the last five years, although you as minister were not there, but your government was represented, not unlike the Government of Yukon, if I might add. The Government of Yukon has come out publically in full support of the intent of this legislation, feeling that it is long overdue. I would like to question a bit further the position being brought forward here, because we were under the impression that there was a common understanding amongst the provinces and territories at the last federal-provincial-territorial meeting that the intent of the legislation was overall honourable and it is a direction that we should be going. The only question was in some cases whether or not the economics of it could be handled by the various jurisdictions. Perhaps you could just shed a little bit of light on that.

Mr. Shewchuk: I think Nunavut's position is just that. We are not challenging the intent or the principle of Bill C-10. However, we are concerned about the consequences of Bill C-10 to Nunavut, and I have tried to express and outline that here today.

Going forward with this, you should understand that Nunavut is a new territory. We have limited funds from our transfer payments from the federal government, and that is our only revenue source right now. Yes, we are moving into the future and we have a bright future ahead of us, but until we have devolution and ownership of our resources and get some revenues from our resources, we need to depend on the federal government to fund us. This will add a burden to the funding source we have right now.

I am here to say two things. We do have an issue with resource capacity, both financial and human, and we also very much have an issue about Inuit cultural and societal values in Nunavut communities.

Senator Lang: I would like to pursue one other area, and that is the question of the burden on the judicial system. You mentioned earlier that there were not one but two new positions for judges in Nunavut to help take care of the caseload. You also in your opening statement stated there were 15 outstanding cases of murder and manslaughter, which obviously means 15 individuals will be in remand until they have their cases heard. With the advent of these two judges, have you taken into consideration what that will do to your penal system in the territory, since these individuals, if found guilty, will be going to a federal penitentiary as opposed to a correctional institution and subsequently will not be a cost burden to you? Have you taken into consideration what that will do to you at the end of the day?

Mr. Shewchuk: Yes, we have. We are very appreciative of getting two new judges in Nunavut. I am sure you are aware that we have six judges. The two new ones will bring us up to eight judges. That will lessen the caseload in our court system. We also have circuit court judges, maybe up to 60 across Canada, who are licensed to do court in Nunavut. The caseload will lessen, but with two new judges, Nunavut also has to provide funding to support costs for staff to assist those judges. We increased our court services staff by eight because of those two new judges, so there are financial burdens on us. It is wonderful to have the two new judges, and the caseloads will go down, but I think they will still be at high levels where we will have difficulties.

Senator Lang: I am wondering about your ability to cope with those who have been charged and are in remand. With the advent of the two new judges, that will substantially clear up the costs associated with that aspect of your judicial system. Is that not correct?

Mr. Shewchuk: I think that you are suggesting something very strongly, and I think it will have an effect on it, but I am not sure given the strength you are putting it at.

The Chair: If I could add a brief supplementary on your comment, Senator Lang, resources are always an issue, whether it is justice, education or health services. You would know that better than I. Your government is trying to deal with all those issues. My understanding is that that is recognized by the federal government. It does have programs to assist.

In the case of Aboriginal justice, there have been what I believe to be rather significant increases in recent years. There is the Aboriginal Justice Strategy, which I understand is now funded to an amount of $85 million a year, doubling what it was previously. It is to address the very issues you speak of about with regard to having community-based justice strategies. Am I right about that, and has that had a positive impact on Nunavut?

Mr. Shewchuk: I will let the deputy minister answer that.

Mr. Tarnow: Yes, Mr. Chair, we do receive some of that $85 million, but most of it is devoted to dealing with prevention. We fund programs in the communities. We have Aboriginal court workers and outreach workers in the communities that we fund through contribution agreements. That funding is not so much used in the case of the justice system, the court system, but it is more at a preventative level.

The Chair: The intention is to reduce the number that would be incarcerated. As we heard from the minister, all of this is complementary. There is a preventative portion and the enforcement portion and rehabilitation. There are a number of different components. I see your point.

Mr. Tarnow: We see the impact of Bill C-10 with the enforcement end of the situation, and that is where we have a resource concern.

The Chair: Thank you. I appreciate that.

Senator Baker: In other words, in view of some of the questions put to you in the past 15 minutes, one of your points, as I gather from what you said, minister, is that you have a serious problem concerning the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. Under this bill, if someone had passed someone else a forbidden substance under Schedule I, and if that person had been convicted in the previous 10 years of a designated substance offence — a designated substance offence is the passing of a joint of marijuana to someone — the judge will not be able to follow the directions of section 718.2(e) of the Criminal Code that you referenced as far as Aboriginal offenders are concerned. The judge can no longer give a conditional sentence. The judge must put that person, according to this bill, in jail for at least a year. This is one of your main points, is it not?

Mr. Shewchuk: Thank you very much senator; it is one of our main points. It is very concerning to us in Nunavut because we do have quite a few repeat offenders, especially young offenders. We do not feel that to give them that type of justice — that is, mandatory minimums — may be the right way to go. I think that a judge should have the flexibility to understand the whole issue and the background as to why that person is there and that society and the community should be involved in that too.

Senator Baker: It almost negates what is presently in the Criminal Code because the Criminal Code says a judge must do this upon sentencing. Then along comes this bill and says, "You go to jail; you have no other choice."

My next question — and probably my last because the chair may cut me off at this point — relates to your financial and resources concerns. Before I put the question to you, I want to congratulate you as minister. You have a tremendous background in natural resources. You are a natural to be a cabinet minister representing any of our northern areas. You mentioned that Mr. Tarnow has more experience than you do, but, as I recollect, he was once a litigator for the federal Attorney General's office. No? Mr. Mansell, were you? No? You are both litigators with experience, is that correct?

Stephen Mansell, Director, Policy and Planning, Government of Nunavut: I graduated law school three years ago, but I have been to court a few times.

Senator Baker: Yes, you have.

Mr. Tarnow: I spent most of my career in public law, advising the government, but I have not done a lot of courtroom work.

Senator Baker: You have done some.

Mr. Tarnow: I have done some, but mostly at the appellate level.

Senator Baker: Have you done some with Mr. Mansell?

Mr. Tarnow: Actually, Mr. Mansell and I did appear together in one case.

Senator Baker: Well, there you go. This is why I am asking the question.

My question is this: If the federal government does not listen to you and will not give you one penny for this new piece of legislation, would you consider — and I do not know if you can answer this question or if you want to — taking the federal government to court in the future, seeking orders of certiorari and mandamus to put off this legislation, as it applies to Nunavut, until arrangements can be made or negotiations had for you to be able to deal with this legislation?

Mr. Shewchuk: Thank you, senator. Thank you for your passion. I can hear it in your voice, and I think you are absolutely right when you reference that.

I will not comment on that, but I will comment on the fact that Bill C-10 will have severe consequences for Nunavut. Our correctional facilities are bulging at the seams right now, and we cannot take any more inmates than we have. We have to work with the Government of Canada on addressing these situations, and that is what we want to do. We want to work together and come to resolutions. Nunavut has so many challenges that people do not understand, unless they go there and see it.

I invite you all to come and visit Nunavut. I would actually invite you all to come to our correctional facilities, and then you will get the real picture. It is a huge challenge, and we need to do something right now. It is critical. It is at that stage. We are suggesting, reviewing and researching options to deal with our facilities right now because we have to do something.

I cannot express enough to you how much of a concern this is to us and what a financial burden it is going to be.

Senator Baker: I have read the judgments that his assistants have partaken of in court, and I can tell you, Mr. Minister, they are good litigators.

The Chair: I realize that through all of this we are always going to be pushing the limits on our time. If you would remain with us minister, we are going to run beyond the time because this is extremely interesting and because we are so fortunate to have you here. We have a number of senators who still wish to ask questions.

Senator Frum: Thank you for being here and thank you very much for that invitation. I was scheduled to go to Nunavut last summer. I hope to maybe do it this summer. I do appreciate that you are talking about a unique part of Canada. Sadly, as you pointed out in your presentation, you have the highest violent crime rate, six times the national average. That also means six times the number of victims. Looking at it from the victims' point of view, I am having difficulty understanding your objections to the mandatory minimums.

As Senator Runciman pointed out, all the mandatory minimums in C-10 have to do with child predators and drug traffickers. I understand that the highest rate of sexual violence in this country is violence against young Aboriginal women. They are the greatest victims of this crime. This bill addresses that. It still gives very lenient penalties. Even the mandatory minimum is still very lenient for the crimes of soliciting young people for sexual acts, putting them into prostitution rings and exposing them to child pornography. Knowing there must be high rates of sexual assaults in your community, I do not understand why the mandatory minimums in that area are so troublesome to you.

Mr. Shewchuk: I thank you for your concern and your points.

You brought up something very important — the victims of the crimes. We do share your feelings that severe sexual crimes and repeat offenders need to be punished. That is understandable across the country with the way we live. However, there are cases where the victims also want to be part of the sentencing system. I think you need to understand — and even I do not understand it — the societal values of the Inuit, the way they deal with justice, their systems and history in dealing with that. That has to be taken into account in some cases. In other cases, I agree with you totally. Severe offenders should be dealt with, but Bill C-10 does not just address those people; it addresses, as the other senator said, drug crimes. Throwing someone into incarceration without understanding all of the societal values behind that is something that Nunavut will not accept.

Senator Frum: The intent of this bill is for traffickers. What Senator Baker was citing is not at all the typical case envisioned in Bill C-10. It deals with the people selling drugs to young people in a territory where there is so much drug addiction among young people. The people who are pushing these drugs and getting kids hooked at a young age are also predators of a different sort.

When there is such a crisis, I have trouble understanding why punishing those people who are bringing others into a life of drug addiction with a one-year sentence is so inappropriate.

Mr. Shewchuk: You may have a hard time understanding that, but I think Inuit understand it in their own communities and their own ways. I will leave it at that with you.

I think that you make very good points, but I will just say that Nunavut is different, and the societal values, beliefs, culture and traditions in Inuit communities are somewhat different than what you explain.

Senator Joyal: I would like to stress, Mr. Minister, that the point raised by Senator Frum is in fact a conundrum. The way the bill is written does not address specifically what we call "organized crime" or the big drug lord. The bill covers everyone in the way it is written.

As my friend Senator Baker has mentioned, in the overall context of fighting the big drug dealers, you will catch two in the net. Smaller people, like the ones you have described in your communities, will find themselves in prison. In my opinion, that is the real problem. It is not the people involved in organized crime that we are concerned about finding in prison. No one around this table would sincerely be opposed to that. That is essentially the nuance between the point raised by Senator Frum and my reading of this bill.

With that said, I have two questions. First, would you accept the idea of establishing a joint task force with the federal government at the level of the Department of Justice to measure the cost impact of the implementation of this bill?

You come to us this morning and you say there will be an impact. Yesterday we asked the same question of the government. Their answer was that the transfer payments have increased in the last years and will continue to increase, so you should pick up the money within that increase.

Since there is a fight about numbers and quantum, would it not be more sensible to find a way to resolve that? This is not the only bill, as you know, that will have an impact on cost; there are other bills that have had an impact on cost as well, which is recognized by everyone. If we are to fight about the amount of money and the financial impact, let us establish a way to resolve that. I made that suggestion to both ministers who appeared yesterday, and it seems sensible to approach the issue in that way.

Mr. Shewchuk: Thank you for those comments. We fully agree that we need to sit down as a territory, along with all other jurisdictions, to discuss not only the financial impact of this bill, but also the human impact. We also need to create a plan on the implementation and how it will roll out because we need time to adjust to everything that will happen here. It is a very good idea, and we would be more than welcome to be part of such a committee or joint venture.

Senator Joyal: My last question is about the Gladue case. We all know what the Gladue case is about, wherein a judge sentencing someone found guilty must take into account section 718.2(e) of the Criminal Code, wherein particular attention must be paid to the circumstances of Aboriginal offenders. I have a conceptual problem with that. If a judge must take into account the fact that a person is an Aboriginal offender, I do not understand why, when a minimum is sentence imposed, the judge loses their discretion with an Aboriginal offender. Either the objective of section 718.2, which is restorative justice and considering the plight that Aboriginal peoples have been through in Canada, is real or not. If it is real, it should apply any time that an Aboriginal offender finds himself or herself in front of a judge.

Have you ever considered challenging in court the point you have raised in your own presentation, that when there is an minimum sentence imposed in the Criminal Code, an Aboriginal offender is deprived from restorative justice of which the code recognizes is the right for any Aboriginal citizen in this country?

Mr. Shewchuk: I have referenced the Gladue principle many times. We have not considered challenging that, but we may in the future if we have to.

I find interesting what Senator Fraser started off with. It would be very effective for us to have a clause in Bill C-10 that says we still have the flexibility in sentencing, such as that of the Gladue principle. That would serve our purposes.

The Chair: I realize time is short. If I could, I have a supplementary regarding the Gladue case.

As you point out, minister — and Senator Joyal is well familiar with it — the Gladue case provides and requires the courts to take into consideration special circumstances of accused Aboriginal offenders. However, that Supreme Court of Canada decision, as I understand it, is very clear that the more serious and violent the crime, the sentencing would be the same as it would be elsewhere in the country. The decision clearly recognizes that serious crime is to be treated differently for the purposes of 718.2 than other crimes.

We have heard from Ministers Toews and Nicholson that Bill C-10 is directed; the focus of it is on serious repeat crime involving sexual acts against children and the production and trafficking of drugs. It is for repeat offenders of serious crimes. Does that not seem to dovetail into what the Supreme Court has said, that it is not unreasonable to have the sentencing of Aboriginals be considered for those serious offenders on a base equal to other Canadians? Do you have any thought on that?

Mr. Shewchuk: Mr. Chair, I do have a thought. I think there are several different twists you can put on the principle in the Gladue case, however you wish to do that. I am saying that we in Nunavut need our court system and judges to have the flexibility to sentence involving the communities and societal values of the Inuit.

The Chair: Right. Even with Bill C-10, that discretion would exist between the minimum and maximum penalties prescribed for any offence. The bill does not remove that discretion; it limits it to the extent of minimum sentencing. Would you agree it does not remove judicial discretion?

Mr. Shewchuk: I will not totally agree with you on that, either.

The Chair: You do not have to agree with anything I am saying. I am just trying to clarify your thoughts.

Mr. Shewchuk: What it does, and I am very clear on this, is limit the flexibility. I will leave it at that.

The Chair: It limits discretion.

Mr. Shewchuk: Yes.

The Chair: Thank you for that.

Senator Angus: I want to welcome you folks here to Ottawa. A lot of ground has been covered. You said it is the first time you have been to one of these committees, so I am delighted that you are here.

Minister, I want to compliment you on your manner; you are presenting your evidence very, very well.

Also, I think I clearly understand your objections to this group of bills; there are nine different pieces of legislation. As the sponsors of the bill, Senator Runciman and Senator Frum have pointed out that the minimum sentencing provision, which you find particularly bad, is only in part of the bill; it does not apply in all the acts, but the fact is, it does apply.

Another objection you have is about the consultation and the cost. You mentioned talking with Ottawa and getting Ottawa to pay. I believe there is an understanding in this city, in this government, of these problems. Are you having discussions? I do not want to leave here thinking or I do not want you to leave here thinking that there is an absolute stone wall and that there is no talking. If that is the case, I would like to know. Are you getting a total cold shoulder?

Mr. Shewchuk: No, we are having discussions. As recently as last week, I was fortunate to attend a meeting of justice ministers in Prince Edward Island and voice our opinion to both federal ministers, Public Safety and Justice, so there is ongoing conversation. The reality is that I need and want all of you to understand that we do face these huge financial challenges.

I want to put this in perspective a little bit, too. In discussion with my colleagues from the other territories, both of them have just constructed new correctional facilities. The cost to build a 150-inmate institution in Whitehorse is $70 million. That facility in Iqaluit in Nunavut would probably cost $300 million. That just puts it in the context of how expensive it is and the challenges we have financially in the North with everything that we do.

Senator Angus: I understand that. Obviously, if the government wants to have Nunavut as part of this great country and if our system of justice is going to apply, then we have to pay the freight, whatever it costs to get there, and I think we all would agree with that.

There is one other element I would like to explore quickly. I do not have a great background or knowledge in the cultural ways of your people or the people in Nunavut, but I am certainly struck by the fact that sentencing people, incarcerating Inuit folk in prisons, is counter to the whole system and way of life. That really, to me, is a starting point. We are talking about whether it should be a guaranteed minimum, whether it should be this or that, and whether they are repeat offenders. Senators around the table have some continuity on this committee, and we have heard year after year of how disproportionate the population in our prisons is of Aboriginal people generally and your Inuit people in particular. You say in the middle of page 3 of your brief that it does not "reflect the population and culture of the territory" to put people in jail, so what would you do? Let us say you did not have to put them in jail. I think you said yourself, sir, that you do not know all the cultural reasons, but I know you know them better than I do. I have this vision of another way of going about it that is in accord with your people's ways.

Mr. Shewchuk: We really do feel like sending everyone to jail is counterproductive in Nunavut.

Two things are very important here that have not been talked about a lot and in which I think we need more investment. The first is crime prevention at a young age. Especially with the young population we have in Nunavut, education and crime prevention is a huge component of dealing with the problems in our facilities. Again, we need to have the resources and the proper programs in place to rehabilitate people, and we do not have that because we do not have the funding for these types of things. You are very privileged where you are in the South.

Senator Angus: You see where I coming from, though?

Mr. Shewchuk: I do.

Senator Angus: I have this vision that before the administration of the justice system as we know it here in the South was imposed on your people, there was another way of dealing with criminals. As you say yourself, they recognize that murder is not a civilized thing to do and you have to punish them. What would you do instead of throwing them in the slammer?

Mr. Shewchuk: We still do have programs in place today where we have camps out on the land. We have land programs where people and facilities are contracted out to take inmates and introduce them back into their cultural society. We also have a lot of programs through our community justice committees to help assist offenders in communities to come back into society.

Senator Angus: I will leave it at that, chair, but I find this is an area we should be looking into.

[Translation]

Senator Chaput: First, I would like to apologize for being late; that is usually not the case.

I listened closely to your presentation on the consequences Bill C-10 would have on Nunavut, and the impact it would have if it remained in its current form. I understand you very well when you say that the bill does not take into account the particular circumstances involved in traditional Inuit concepts of justice and rehabilitation.

Senator Fraser began talking about amendments. If this committee was open-minded and was willing to make changes to Bill C-10 — you talked, among other things, about giving judges more flexibility — do you think that other provisions could be amended in the interest of making Bill C-10 more responsive to your specific needs?

[English]

Mr. Shewchuk: Directly under Bill C-10, our most important point is to have that flexibility or a clause in there that allows us to continue the way we do justice in Nunavut. I would have to do further review on other points. There probably are other points we would be concerned about, too. I would like to have a dialogue with the federal government in regard to Bill C-10 also on the capacity and the consequences to Nunavut, both financially and human resources, too.

Senator Fraser: My question has been addressed. In the interests of time and saving the chair irritation, I shall pass, but I thank you all very much.

The Chair: We are pleased to have the minister here today. We are stretching beyond our time, but I will go as far as I am able to.

Senator Runciman, did you have anything further?

Senator Runciman: Following on from Senator Frum, the minister himself talked about rising crime rates in Nunavut. I am saying that what we are trying to do through this legislation is address many of those concerns, because you have to admit that obviously what is occurring at the moment is not being successful, for whatever reasons, and you can certainly explain them better than I. I think this is an effort to talk about victims and people who are continuing in this system, in and out of the system, committing crimes and leaving victims in their wake. The government is attempting to address that and certainly help the challenges that you are facing. I hope you can appreciate that perspective as well.

From my own interest, and hopefully you could address it prior to the conclusion of the committee's hearings, or you could send us a letter, I am really interested in the clogging up of your system, the average hold, why this is the situation, and your average costs versus what it is costing you to transfer prisoners out to other jurisdictions. If you can give us an understanding of those implications, I think there may be other answers out there, too, where the government can assist you in addressing them. I would certainly appreciate that very much.

Senator Lang: To follow up on that, we go back to the repeat offenders. I represent the northern part of the country, and almost 60 to 70 per cent of the inmates in our correctional institutions are repeat offenders, in one manner or another. That is a huge, huge number. I am wondering if you could look at that aspect of it. When there has been incarceration, what are your repeat offender numbers as far as your inmate population is concerned?

Senator Fraser: If you are producing data, to the extent that you have these numbers, would it be possible to let us know how many of the sentences that have been handed out or are currently in force in Nunavut — whatever data you have — are conditional, in other words, sentences that take into account Aboriginal traditions? Also, can you estimate how many of those would have been transformed into incarceration had Bill C-10 then been in effect? That would be really interesting.

The Chair: I have one final comment, minister, on your reference to the traditions of the Nunavut people and your thoughts on incarceration. You made it very clear that you had issues with that. When I think of Minister Toews' and Minister Nicholson's presentations yesterday, they referred us to the fact that the purpose of Bill C-10 is to provide further protection for all Canadians. I will use an example, one that we have talked about.

The major focus of this is to remove or reduce the threat of sexual offences against children. It is horrendous; we would do anything we could to prevent or limit that. The ministers’ view is that, in particular with repeat offenders, it is necessary at times to remove offenders from society in order to protect the children. It would be great if they could be convinced, talked to and rehabilitated, but at times for some — the worst, the serious offenders — there is, in the ministers’ view, no alternative but to remove those offenders for a period of time. As the ministers pointed out, during that period of incarceration, rehabilitative services should be and are available, and perhaps the offenders will correct their ways.

My impression was that you have concerns with any form of incarceration, but I am having difficulty in reconciling that with the objectives we have heard from the minister and, in particular, with the fact that, within your region, you face reoffending and the types of problems we are talking about and Bill C-10 addresses in a greater way than the rest of the country does. I am having trouble reconciling where you see incarceration.

Mr. Shewchuk: I think maybe you understood me wrong, too.

The Chair: Maybe I did. That is why I just want to clarify.

Mr. Shewchuk: We do not disagree with incarceration for a crime that deserves that type of incarceration. Let me be clear about that. However, we do still think that we need the flexibility. I do not understand why that flexibility cannot be allowed in Bill C-10, whether it is used or not. In a lot of cases, it will not be used, but it should be there if it is needed in the conditions and the society we live in in Nunavut. I will leave it at that.

I want to thank all the senators for their final remarks because there are some good points. I know that I am going to be working with my colleagues from the North, from the Yukon and the Northwest Territories. We have agreed to work together and move forward on the challenges we face with this bill.

I will leave it at that. After you are done, I will have a few closing comments.

The Chair: I think that concludes our questions. Before I sincerely thank you for your presentation today, if you have closing comments, we are interested in hearing them.

Mr. Shewchuk: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair, and thank you to all of you. It has been a wonderful experience to have this opportunity to present to you and to explain some of the challenges, especially with justice, in Nunavut. As I say, I invite you all up to our great territory. If you come to Iqaluit, plan on staying a little while and going to visit another outlying community because that is where you get the true spirit and feeling of Nunavut, not just by coming to the capital city.

Thank you very much. I appreciate the opportunity to be here.

The Chair: Minister, I certainly know of what you speak with regard to Iqaluit. One of my daughters worked in Iqaluit for a period of time and it was a wonderful experience for her.

Thank you so much. Your passion and understanding of the people of your region is obvious from the comments all three of you have made. We deeply appreciate that you have come here. It has helped us a great deal.

Colleagues, our next witness is the President of the Canadian Police Association, Mr. Tom Stamatakis.

Welcome, Mr. Stamatakis. We are pleased to have you here today. I understand you have an opening statement, following which we will have questions from committee members.

Tom Stamatakis, President, Canadian Police Association: It is a pleasure for me to appear before you today for the first time in my capacity as the President of the Canadian Police Association to discuss Bill C-10, a comprehensive piece of legislation that takes some real and meaningful steps towards providing the tools necessary for police to pursue their goal of safer communities.

For those of you who may not be familiar, the Canadian Police Association is the federal voice for over 41,000 front line police personnel across Canada. Our membership includes police personnel serving in 160 police services across the country, from some of the smallest towns and villages to those working in our largest municipal and provincial police services, including members of the RCMP, railway police and First Nations police personnel.

To be absolutely clear, the CPA entirely supports the goals and methods contained within Bill C-10. From the enhanced sentencing rules for those who commit sexual offences against minors to the restrictions on conditional sentences for some of the most serious offences, these changes will go a long way to ensuring that those criminals caught as a result of our investigations will face an appropriate punishment for crimes.

There are a couple of areas of the legislation that I would like to highlight in my brief remarks here today, the first of which are the amendments contained within the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act in Part 2 of Bill C-10.

Every day, our members see the devastating effects that drug traffickers and producers have on all of our communities. Those police officers are the ones that constantly have to arrest the same drug dealers and producers over and over again and stop them from poisoning our children and grandchildren and robbing youth of their future.

Whether these criminal organizations are in larger urban centres like Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa or in smaller communities like Saint John and Gander, front line police officers see on a daily basis how organized crime supplies dangerous and illegal drugs with not only disregard for the law, but having no consideration for the lives and families they destroy.

For a number of years, the Canadian Police Association has been advocating for a national drug strategy that incorporates a balanced approach to reduce the adverse effects associated with drug use by limiting both the supply of and demand for illicit drugs, enabling an integrated approach to education, prevention, treatment and enforcement. In our view, this legislation is critically important in addressing the enforcement component of this strategy.

Violent offenders are not deterred by current sentencing, corrections and parole policies. Chronic offenders understand the system and work it to their advantage. Criminal gangs have taken over prisons and some neighbourhoods. We need stronger intervention that combines general deterrence, specific deterrence, denunciation and reform. Whether it is by keeping dealers and producers off the streets and out of business or by serving as a deterrent to potential dealers, Bill C-10 will help our members in doing their jobs and keeping our communities safe. In simple terms, keep these criminals in jail longer and you take away their opportunity to traffic in drugs.

There has been a considerable amount of debate about the use of minimum sentences and the frequency of repeat offenders. Make no mistake about it: Repeat offenders are a serious problem. Police understand this intuitively as we deal with frequent flyers on a routine basis.

Statistics released by the Toronto Police Service Homicide Squad for 2005 demonstrate this point. Among the 32 people facing murder or manslaughter charges for homicides in 2006, 14 were on bail at the time of the offence, 13 were on probation and 17 were subject to firearms prohibition orders. The revolving door justice system is failing to prevent further criminal activity by these repeat violent offenders.

As police officers and more so as members of your communities, it concerns us that our youth and many adults have been getting the wrong message on drugs. The use of drugs has been trivialized by what people see on TV but also by misguided public policy. What they do not see at the beginning is that drugs will most probably take over their lives, and the message to our youth should be clear: Drugs are dangerous.

With this legislation, the message to drugs dealers and producers is clear: Bill C-10 is a part of well-coordinated assault on organized crime. Cutting off the production and distribution of these dangerous and illegal drugs takes away the lifeblood of organized crime.

Another area I would like to briefly highlight is the creation of two new offences within the legislation, the first of which is making sexually explicit material available to a child, and the second is agreeing to arrange or to commit a sexual offence against a child.

I cannot possibly stress the need for us to keep our laws up to date, specifically with respect to new and evolving technologies, to give our police every opportunity to keep ahead of those abusing these technologies to commit the most horrible crimes against our children.

Finally, I would like to offer a specific mention of support for the provisions within this legislation that will, if passed, authorize a peace officer to arrest without a warrant an offender who is on a conditional release for breach of conditions. This common-sense change to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act is long overdue. For example, under current legislation, even if a police officer comes into contact with a clearly intoxicated individual that he knows firsthand is under an order prohibiting alcohol consumption, he is unable to effect an arrest without first going through the time-consuming process of obtaining a warrant.

Before I finish, I would like to raise one concern on behalf of my members regarding Bill C-10. There is no doubt that this legislation comes at some cost. Representatives from the CPA attended last week's FPT meeting of Ministers of Justice and Public Safety, and we heard firsthand the concerns raised by some provincial representatives with respect to this legislation. While estimates vary, I would like all honourable senators to be aware that police budgets across Canadian are, in many circumstances, already close to the breaking point. In order to keep our communities safe, we require both the tools and the resources necessary to avoid the kind of service cuts that would put the gains we have made at unnecessary risk.

On behalf of my members, let me be clear that this legislation represents part of the cost of doing business for law enforcement. We hope that the federal government and their provincial partners can quickly come to an agreement on how to best address the funding concerns without delay. There is plenty of evidence showing the gains law enforcement is making across a number of fronts, and there is no doubt that the new tools provided to our policemen and policewomen across Canada in this legislation will help us build on those successes.

I appreciate the opportunity to address the committee on this legislation, and I look forward to trying to answer any questions you might have.

The Chair: Thank you very much for those comments, Mr. Stamatakis.

Senator Fraser: Thank you very much for being here.

I have two questions. The first is in connection with the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. One of the aggravating factors in terms of the sentencing set out in this bill is this, and I will now read from the bill: ". . . if the person committed the offence in or near a school, on or near school grounds or in or near any other public place usually frequented by persons under the age of 18." It is the police who grab people first when they are committing these offences. How, in your experience, would people interpret these, to me, quite sweeping phrases? What public place is not usually frequented by persons under 18? How would you interpret this?

Mr. Stamatakis: From a front line policing perspective, I can speak from firsthand experience that we generally interpret it as being around schools and parks. Particularly in some of the major cities, in the more marginalized neighbourhoods, it is a significant problem. Drug users and dealers congregate around schools and parks because there are spaces that are available, and there is often shelter. They make a mess and prevent other citizens in communities from using those same public spaces, so I, from a policing perspective, think it is an appropriate factor to consider when you are deciding how to deal with those people who are involved in chronic drug offences such as trafficking and those kinds of things.

Senator Fraser: From your perspective, it would not necessarily include shopping malls or subway stations.

Mr. Stamatakis: No. Police across the country do not have the capacity to try to target every single public place people under the age of 18 frequent, so, generally speaking, we target schools and parks that are specifically created for kids.

Senator Fraser: My next question has to do with the Youth Criminal Justice Act. The amendments would require that "the police force shall keep a record of any extrajudicial measures that they use to deal with young persons." Will that create an administrative burden for the police?

Mr. Stamatakis: I am not sure because typically we are spending a lot of time dealing with youth. You hear a lot about the enforcement piece of this bill. Most people are speaking about that aspect of it, but we are engaged in many, many other activities, particularly around prevention and intervention involving youth. Therefore, a lot of that documentation is already occurring when we come into contact with young offenders, particularly in schools or other places they frequent, Boys and Girls Clubs and other facilities like that.

I do not see it as adding more administrative obligations. Frankly, I think it is appropriate because I think we want to know what we have been doing to try to deal with young offenders, whether it is from an enforcement perspective or from a preventative perspective.

Senator Runciman: I think keeping that kind of information is very important and helpful in terms of assessing policy going forward because I know it may happen in a lot of instances, but, in many, it does not.

You mentioned the arrest without warrant in terms of an individual on conditional release, and you gave an example. The Canadian Bar Association disagrees with your association. You may be aware of that. They have indicated, essentially, that it is no problem to get a warrant. Maybe you could respond to that position.

Mr. Stamatakis: I can tell you from firsthand experience and from feedback from members who every day find themselves trying to get these warrants that it is a problem, even in a major city like Vancouver. That is where I am from and where I have done my police work. Sometimes trying to locate a justice or a judge, even when they are supposed to be available by phone, can be a challenge. It is time consuming. Often, even when you are trying to obtain the warrant by phone, there is a requirement to provide more information, to go away, gather and collate information and to come back and make another pitch. It is not a simple task. It is a significant drain on capacity for front line police officers in this country. I guess we will have to continue to disagree with the bar association.

Senator Runciman: With the Youth Criminal Justice Act and the provisions in this bill in terms of pre-trial detention, which flow from the Nunn commission in Nova Scotia and the person who was stealing cars and ultimately killed an innocent person, this is really adding judicial discretion to the laws on the books, allowing a judge to determine, if an individual can pose a threat to society, that they can retain them in detention to await trial. I wonder if you have any insights from a policing perspective about that and about how difficult and, I suspect, how frustrating it is under the current laws to keep a young offender in pre-trial detention who may pose a threat to the public. Do you have any comments on that?

Mr. Stamatakis: It is extremely difficult. In my own policing career, I have never been more frustrated than when dealing with a serial young offender, particularly those who are stealing cars and going for joy rides, which creates tremendous risk for the community just because of what can happen when you have a young person who is not legally authorized to, or even capable of, driving a car racing around a populated city.

More recently, there have been significant challenges in Winnipeg, where we have all kinds of young offender offenders stealing cars, committing crimes and going for joy rides. Police officers have been seriously injured. There is a significant problem with organized crime recruiting young offenders to steal cars and to engage in other crime. It poses a real risk to the police officers who I represent across the country. Winnipeg is the best example right now because they seem to be experiencing a higher than normal rate of these kinds of incidents. These kinds of offences, particularly by serial young offenders who are intent on committing the same crime over and over, pose a significant risk to the community at large.

We had an incident in Vancouver a year or two ago where someone stole a car and drove it through a park where a preschool was. It was a children's park. There was no regard for the safety of the kids. The kids were out with their supervisors and there were parents watching; but they just did not care. It is a problem, and it is appropriate that in certain circumstances where we can establish that it is a chronic serial offender, we ought to be able to have that discretion.

Senator Runciman: The judge has that expanded discretion.

Dealing with the drug elements of the bill, could you talk from a policing perspective and background knowledge about the role of organized crime in the marijuana grow op business and perhaps also reference the six-plant issue mentioned in this bill?

Mr. Stamatakis: In terms of marijuana and organized crime, it is all about organized crime. I happen to live and work in a part of the country where it is more prolific probably than in other parts of the country. There are few grow ops that are not somehow attached to an organized crime group. They typically will throw them up in any neighbourhood, with lots of damage to the properties. They bring in caretakers to run them and they just roll them over as quickly as they can to generate profit. It is all driven by organized crime, from a policing perspective. Unfortunately, the vast majority of the marijuana that gets produced, particularly in British Columbia, is exported to our neighbours to the south. It is a significant problem.

There has been much discussion about the six-plant issue. I never spent a lot of time in drug enforcement, but my colleagues who have spent a lot of time in drug enforcement and have dealt with marijuana grow ops say you can produce a lot of marijuana with six plants. It is a bit of a stretch for anyone to suggest that that is what you will grow for personal consumption.

Notwithstanding that, coming back to my earlier response, from a capacity perspective I do not remember the last time a Vancouver police drug squad member sought a warrant or executed a warrant on a grow op with six plants. We target organized crime groups, large grow ops, hundreds of plants, typically. Even if you wanted to follow the letter of the law in terms of where the line is, we would not have the capacity to do that anywhere in this country.

The other reality is that police officers every day use their discretion in terms of what they will enforce and what they will not enforce. I think that is a bit of a red herring in the broader discussion.

Senator Baker: I would disagree with you on the arrest without warrant point. We created section 495 of the Criminal Code that covers arrest without warrant. A police officer can arrest someone without a warrant if the person has committed an indictable offence or is in the process of committing a criminal offence. Then we added the telewarrant provisions. We have judges available 24 hours a day in most provinces — I must admit that in some provinces it is not the case — for the purpose of telewarrants, but that is another discussion perhaps we can follow at a later date.

I have to congratulate you on the great job you are doing in the position you are in.

I have a concern about this bill that involves some questioning we did yesterday with the National Parole Board concerning pardons and records of offences — for example, on conditional discharges. Are you aware of the recent decision of the Supreme Court of Canada of R. v. McNeil?

Mr. Stamatakis: Yes, I am.

Senator Baker: It concerns me because police officers in the line of duty, as you point out, have to arrest people. They are in positions where sometimes they get charged with assault. The thing goes to trial and they are completely discharged, but a record of that is held. Because of this recent decision, all of their disciplinary records going back years fall under mandatory disclosure every time that police officer testifies in a criminal court. Do you agree with that so far?

Mr. Stamatakis: I agree that R v. McNeil has created an obligation for disclosure in the first instance whenever a police officer is a witness in a criminal matter that is going to trial. The obligation is disclosed to the Crown and then there is a requirement to establish that the records are relevant to the matter that is before a judge at trial. There is a bit of a threshold there.

The challenge, though, and we are already starting to experience this, is that defence lawyers now are obviously aware of the case and the obligation. We are starting now to see cases where it is much like the consequence of Stinchcombe where, in my view from a front line policing perspective, the disclosure obligations on police officers during investigations are out of control and have a tremendous impact on capacity for police organizations but are also impacting the whole criminal justice system in terms of moving trials through the process.

Getting back to McNeil, defence lawyers are routinely now asking for disclosure of those police officer records. Even where the Crown has determined that the records are not relevant to the file, we are now seeing arguments around whether or not those records should be disclosed. We are not even dealing with the case that is before the judge at this trial; we are now focusing on the police officer’s discipline records.

You touched on those rare occasions — and it is rare in the context of how many police officers we have in the country and what they do — where there is a criminal record. Police officers have discipline records for whatever reason, whether it is because they are late coming to work or a complaint from a citizen that was substantiated. That is the bigger issue because those records are now becoming part of a big debate before you get to what you are there for.

Senator Baker: To complete the point about how this is negatively affecting our police forces and carrying cases through the courts, as was mentioned by the National Parole Board here yesterday before this committee, this change being made in this bill relates to only records held by the commissioner or by a department or agency of the Government of Canada and shall be kept separate and apart from other records. The answer given by the National Parole Board and by the officials was that we cannot really extend that protection to provincial agencies or the courts or any records held by the courts that are outside of our federal jurisdiction. If an ordinary individual has a record it is not disclosed, but if a police officer has a record it is disclosed mandatorily. That was my question and thank you for your answer.

Senator Lang: I appreciate the work that you and your membership do every day and every night on our behalf.

I would like to refer to your comments on the question of rehabilitation. The bill before us does a number of things from the point of view of enforcement but also from the point of view of rehabilitation.

One of scourges in our society is drugs on the street through organized crime, which you talked about. It is not only in the big cities but also in small-town Canada. It is prevalent in my part of the world, Yukon, and in many other areas of rural Canada. Maybe you could touch on the government's National Anti-Drug Strategy, which refers to the drug treatment court program, which is in this bill. Have you had any experience with it? What successes, if any, have we have had? Perhaps you could provide some overall observations.

Mr. Stamatakis: Generally speaking, I am supportive. You have to be careful when you talk about drug enforcement. The emphasis in my view around Bill C-10 and what we really support is the focus on organized crime, serious drug trafficking, and persons who are addicted where treatment needs to be a big part of the solution. We are very supportive of the drug treatment court programs where you can look at alternatives for dealing with the tragically addicted people who find themselves mired in the drug industry because of the addiction. We should go further. There are lots of opportunities to give people access to treatment and to look at other strategies to try to get people away from their addiction. Again, let us focus on education and prevention.

We have a drug court in Vancouver that I have some experience with. I am aware of cases referred to the drug court. Many people who have come through have been diverted into other programs or activities rather than being charged criminally and ultimately sentenced somehow. To be honest, I cannot say that there have been any resounding successes in terms of someone who went through the drug court and, as a result, has moved on. However, it is something that we need to rely on more, and we need to keep trying. When you are dealing with the seriously addicted, whether to illicit drugs or legal drugs, treatment and getting them to a place where they are abstaining is challenging, and you have to keep trying sometimes. It will not work the first time every time.

Senator Lang: I will move on to another area. We consistently hear about the scenario of a university party where one individual gives another individual some marijuana. Subsequently, they would be charged. If they give them a pill with codeine in it, they would be charged and subsequently taken through the court system. Could you perhaps give us your observations from the enforcement point of view on such a situation?

Mr. Stamatakis: In my experience, both in terms of my colleagues and the people I represent, that is not a likely scenario. I cannot imagine a circumstance where you are going to arrest someone in that circumstance at a party. You may intervene because you have been called, but to actually arrest and charge someone with possession, let alone even considering something like trafficking, I just do not see happening. In fact, if a police officer in my experience did do that, I would be shocked if the Crown approved the charge, in provinces where the Crown approves charges. Even in locations where police officers can swear the information on their own, I do not know how far that would get in the criminal justice system in those circumstances.

Again, police officers are required to use their discretion every day. We do not give a ticket to every person that goes five kilometres over the speed limit. It is the same thing with every other type of offence. We do not have the capacity to spend a lot of time looking for people who are casual users of marijuana; it is just not possible. We have to make decisions around resources and prioritize actions.

In the police community in this country right now, given the challenges we face with respect to resources and funding, we focus on serious criminal offenders. More recently, we have focused on intelligence-led policing, whereby we rely a lot on data and crime analyses. We target chronic offenders and serious offenders, and that is how we are making communities safer. That is part of the reason that we have seen some significant improvements in the types of crimes we see in Canadian committees.

The Chair: From what you have said, I am stating the obvious: Your focus as a police officer is on serious crime. There are other crimes that have to be dealt with as well, but serious crime is the major focus. It seems that the basis of your support of Bill C-10 is that it focuses on serious crime. Not to put words in your mouth, but is that the basis of your support of Bill C-10?

Mr. Stamatakis: That is correct. In my time as a police officer, I have come across a lot of people with a joint or a pill. I just take it and typically destroy it; and that is the end of it. There has to be some other aggravating factor or there has to be something more before taking any further enforcement action.

The Chair: To that extent, Bill C-10 uses the term "aggravating factor" such that mandatory minimums would apply only when aggravating factors also apply.

Senator Joyal: Mr. Stamatakis, yesterday our colleague Senator Nolin, who has been sitting on this committee for a long time, called our attention to a report that was published last June. I do not know if you are aware of it. It is entitled, War on Drugs: Report of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, June 2011. That report was put together through the service of commissioners from many countries around the world under the auspices of the United Nations.

On page 15, a chapter entitled "Law Enforcement and the Escalation of Violence" concluded that increased law enforcement actually increased drug market violence "by displacing dealers and related activity elsewhere or increasing the incidence of violence as displaced dealers clash with established ones."

When there are drug fights, there are casualties among the public and among the drug dealers, who tend to shoot one another. We know that crime gangs have their territories and monopolies over traffickers. Is this unavoidable or is it an unintended consequence of the law enforcement generally? Certainly, Bill C-10 will have an impact on this. If we expect the bill to be effective, law enforcement will be in a better position to fight organized crime, and the bill provides for consequences, like the ones that apply in that report. Do you have comments on that?

Mr. Stamatakis: I will say a couple of things. As a police officer and someone who represents front line police officers, I really take offence to this whole notion that Canada has been engaged somehow in a war on drugs. That is an American term that many people have conveniently imported into this country. The fact is that we are not engaged in a war on drugs in this country. We target people who are engaged in criminal activity that is harmful to communities and the citizens that live in communities.

I have been a police officer for 23 years. On the West Coast, from the early 1990s, I went through at least five or six what are often referred to as "gang wars." The police had nothing to do with any of the gang violence. I am talking about murders — very public shootings. One war is occurring right now in the Lower Mainland. It has nothing to do with enforcement. These are battles between different organized crime groups engaged in the production and distribution of marijuana, cocaine or ecstasy that are fighting over turf, ripping each other off or that kind of thing. All we do is try to prevent it from happening and put a lid on it.

With the greatest of respect to the people who wrote the report — and I may have seen it or read it but I do not recall right now — last year or two years ago we had a very serious gang war problem in the Lower Mainland. There were many murders. The police organizations throughout the Lower Mainland got together and created an integrated gang task force and coordinated our efforts. We went from seeing a municipality like Abbotsford leading the country in homicides to having no homicides last year. Even in Vancouver, the homicide rate went down dramatically year-to-year.

Therefore, I would give a different perspective and say that the targeted law enforcement activities that police agencies across the country are now engaging in when it comes to drugs in this country are having a very positive effect. Unfortunately what we are still grappling with and have not solved is the fact that the illegal distribution and production of drugs is very lucrative. You have people who want to be involved in organized crime because they see it as an opportunity to make lots of money quickly and easily, and those people continue to have conflicts with each other. That is what we are struggling with in this country.

Senator Joyal: Thank you for your comments. They are appreciated, and we will make sure that Senator Nolin can share the results of your experience.

Mr. Stamatakis: I would be happy to discuss the issue further with him.

Senator Joyal: In your brief, you concluded that there is, of course, a financial issue with this bill, and you are one of the stakeholders on that issue. Do you have any idea of the amount of money or resources needed to implement the objectives of this bill? It is fine for us to adopt the legislation, but it falls into your hands the next day, as one of the front line officers, to implement it. Since you were a participant or at least were at the federal-provincial-territorial ministers' conference last week, do you have any idea of the amount of money required by this bill if we really want to meet the objectives of it?

Mr. Stamatakis: I am of two minds with respect to the costs because I was at the ministers' meeting last week, and we heard from a lot of the provincial ministers in terms of what impact they thought it would have on each province. Obviously, there were differing opinions.

One of the things that has occurred to me is that a lot of people are talking about what the cost is, but it is based on a lot of assumptions. I do not know — and this is just my opinion — if I have seen real data that demonstrates specifically what the costs will be.

I am involved, along with police leaders across the country, in discussions around policing costs and the economics of policing. I do know — and I referred to it in my opening comments — that front line police officers deal with chronic offenders over and over and over again. One of the things that occurred to me and that I want to spend some time on is that if we are going to see some minimum sentences and going to get these chronic, serious offenders off the street, one of the consequences of this legislation may be that there is more capacity in the police community both to continue with enforcement activities and to spend some of that time on the proactive activities we are always engaged in. Here today we are talking about enforcement, but I would say that prevention and proactive activities are just as important as enforcing the laws. That is a long answer to your very simple question. No, we have not done any research ourselves to try to anticipate the costs.

However, there is a real cost to some of the crime that occurs in this country. We deal with victims every day, and I could spend a whole day here talking to you about people who are affected, even the 85-year-old widow whose gets broken into and has lived in the same home for 60 years. I could tell you what impact that B and E, which we have decided in this country is a relatively minor crime, has on that elderly widow for the rest of her life. There is a real cost to crime in this country, and at some point people have to decide what it is worth.

[Translation]

Senator Boisvenu: Thank you very much for your testimony; it was greatly appreciated. Your brief addressed at length the issue of drugs, especially in school. I agree with your observations, since I often go into schools to speak to students. School principals have told me that, in high school, they have to focus more on maintaining order than on teaching.

According to a Health Canada report made public last year, marijuana contains substances which, among other things, were 20 times more powerful in 2010 than in 1975 or 1980, and that kids as young as 9 were smoking up in 2010 as compared to doing so at age 15 in 1975. The neurological repercussions are permanent. Boys, I imagine, smoke up more than girls, and, at age 18, boys are twice as likely as girls to develop schizophrenia when they start using at a young age.

For years now, there has been a debate on legislating the sale and use of marijuana. This issue was debated yesterday, but unfortunately I was not there. What would you say to people who support legalization of these drugs? The report we received yesterday calls for legalizing a whole range of drugs, not only soft drugs. What do you say to people who defend the philosophy of legalizing everything?

[English]

Mr. Stamatakis: What I would say is this. First, you are bang on in terms of the report that suggests that we are seeing youth start to use drugs at a younger age. That is directly as a result of the kind of messaging that exists. I alluded to it in my comments. We are seeing important people, people who represent institutions, trivialize drugs like marijuana when, in fact, not only is it more potent but also we have police officers who go to grow ops and get sick because of all pesticides and other chemicals used to try to produce these crops at a much faster rate. It is a significant problem.

I do not agree, nor do I support this notion that we should be legalizing drugs. I have followed the debate and I have engaged in it from time to time. I can tell you that in my experience as a front line police officer, with the greatest of respect to the government, if we legalize marijuana we will create standards and there will be requirements for quality control, health and safety, and all those kinds of things. This will only drive up price, which means that organized crime groups — in my view, based on my experience and the feedback I get from members — will continue to produce marijuana illegally in a black market, underground, because they will be able to produce and sell it much cheaper than any government agency will sell it if it is legalized. I do not see that as the solution.

The Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse can provide you with great information in terms of what legal drugs already cost society in this country. I can tell you, from a law enforcement perspective, we spend a significant amount of time dealing with the trafficking and illegal distribution of tobacco and alcohol, and the impact of alcohol, which is a legal substance in society, and the crimes that are committed as a result of the overconsumption of alcohol.

To me, to say "Let us just legalize it" and not to recognize what kind of message that sends to youth in this country is irresponsible. In fact, I would suggest that the reason we are seeing more youth starting to experiment with these drugs is because of the messaging and their feeling that if one of our ex-prime ministers said publicly it was okay to smoke some marijuana from time to time, as a young kid, why would you then think there was anything wrong with it?

I have two kids of my own. I have a 19-year-old daughter. I have had some of those discussions. They have been quite difficult because I am saying, "Here are the reasons why you should think about this before you get involved with it," and she is giving me all kinds of arguments on the other side, where you have credible people saying it is not a big deal.

[Translation]

Senator Boisvenu: You talked about the problem of break-and-enter. Last year’s crime statistics indicated that the break-and-enter rate has increased by 21 per cent. This type of mischief is classified as an economic crime, a property crime, when in fact it has a big psychological impact. In my view, it should be a crime against the person. Last year, in Quebec, three youths aged 16 or 17 killed a senior when they broke into the senior’s home. Young people often break into homes to steal money for drugs. In your career as a police officer, and based on your interactions with the police in your environment, have you seen an increase in this type of crime, which is committed by 14, 15, 16 or 17-year-olds, where they break into homes to steal money for drugs?

[English]

Mr. Stamatakis: Yes. In my career, I have dealt with many youth engaged in not just break and enters but home invasions. In fact, I was involved in a prolific case where a group of youth invaded a number of homes, always where there were elderly people residing in the homes. Those people, in many cases, were seriously assaulted. In some cases, elderly women were sexually assaulted by these youth. It is a problem.

I could not tell you today whether or not there has been a dramatic increase, but I know that there are youth across this country engaged in those kinds of activities, and youth generally do get extensively involved in property crimes.

Senator Meredith: Thank you so much for your presentation.

You talked about intervention and prevention. As someone who over the last 10 years has worked with police in Toronto speaking against youth violence, we know that young people are basically peons in this chain, where they are caught up with the kingpins. We never seem to reach them. The police have made raids and so forth, and this problem continues. As you take someone out of the community, someone else replaces them.

What are you doing to engage stakeholders? You talk about prevention and intervention in terms of schools. What portion of your budget is spent on actually doing the education piece? We all want safe streets and safe communities around this table, but we know that our youth will be adversely affected by this bill. They are marginalized in these communities, whether it is Vancouver, Surrey, B.C., Edmonton, Toronto, Montreal, or right here in Ottawa.

How will we ensure that we are engaging the stakeholders and spending these dollars up front rather than at the back end?

Mr. Stamatakis: That is a critical piece, and you cannot have one and not the other. You need the enforcement piece, but you also need the prevention piece. I can tell you, from a policing perspective, that we recognize that as an important piece.

Every major police agency across this country, although they may call it different things, has a school liaison program where you have police officers assigned to schools and working in schools to engage with kids. We have a group of individuals who are making presentations in schools throughout British Columbia, Yukon and Alberta around harms associated with drugs. It is a very practical, real-life example. We have gone away from this whole messaging around just saying no to drugs. Youth do not listen to that. The messaging needs to be peer-based. We need to speak about these issues on their level, engage them and give them some credit for being able to engage.

In Prince Albert, the chief there has created an interesting and innovative program. I do not have all the terminology, but he calls it a hub. This is where I think the future lies, where you engage all the stakeholders. You do not just have police involved but you have health and schools involved.

The chief has representatives from each stakeholder working in the same building. The teacher identifies the kid who comes to school with no breakfast and maybe not clothed properly. Then there is some dialogue with the social worker to say, "Let us go to the home and see what is going on." The chief has been able to establish that. Because of the interventions they have made, they have prevented crimes.

That is the key, to respond in a more comprehensive way. Instead of the police doing their thing, social agencies doing their thing, health doing their thing and schools doing their thing, we need to work together so that we can get to those marginalized kids, the kids who are struggling or who are not in a good situation, early on before they decide that the only alternative they have is to get involved in gang crime activity. Such activity is attractive. You have the nice clothes and cars and you are flashing the money.

We need to do some different things, and police departments are engaged in all kinds of strategies in that regard.

Senator Meredith: In terms of the stakeholders you are interacting with, what is their response to this bill? They are also intervening with young people to try to help them because they know their home situation is deplorable, that they come to school hungry and so forth. Some of these stakeholders are saying, "We know we want these streets safe." What is their feedback to you, as a police agency, interacting as associates across this country?

Mr. Stamatakis: For example, in Vancouver we have a car where we team up a police officer and a social worker, a police officer and a mental health worker, and a police officer and a youth worker. When we talk to those people about serious, chronic offenders, then they support the bill.

However, when you talk to people who broaden it out beyond that and start to feel like a youth who gets involved in a criminal offence for the first time is suddenly going to be incarcerated for a year, of course people do not support that. I do not even support that.

That is not what we are talking about here. We are talking about serious, chronic offenders who are creating a lot of harm in your community, victimizing people and tying up police resources, court resources and that kind of thing.

That is the kind of dialogue I have been having. The response is mixed, obviously, and we saw a lot of that when we were at the FPT meeting last week with the provinces.

Senator Jaffer: Mr. Stamatakis, I want to welcome you. I am also from Vancouver, so welcome to Ottawa.

I certainly understand when you talk about organized crime. You focused on organized crime in your presentation, and coming from Vancouver I understand where you come from.

We, from Vancouver or British Columbia, are not very proud of the issue of missing women and what has happened to the Aboriginal women in our province. We will always have a mark against us as a result of that.

I want you to address the challenges that the police association, police force, faces in dealing with the most marginalized. In your last intervention you spoke about the marginalized people, and the most marginalized people are the urban Aboriginal people, especially in our province of British Columbia. Can you address how this bill will affect those people?

Mr. Stamatakis: Again, in my experience and talking specifically about Vancouver, what I have in my mind in relation to Aboriginal women who live in the Downtown East Side, for example, I do not think this will affect them at all. Most of the women who our officers typically come into contact with are usually drug addicted and struggling and are prostituting themselves to support their drug habit. Frankly, we do not target those women with respect to any enforcement activities. In fact, what we have done recently is created programs like Sister Watch.

Senator Jaffer: I did not mean women specifically. Generally, how will this bill affect the Aboriginal people in our province?

Mr. Stamatakis: It will create some challenges, I think. It will still target the right people, those chronic offenders, people who have been through treatment programs, other alternative restorative justice programs but are still engaged in chronic criminal activity. You have to recognize, tough, that there are differences and additional challenges when dealing with those marginalized people, across the province and across the country.

I will go back to what I referred to earlier. This is where other programs that we have in place come into play where we are liaising with representatives from those groups and trying to come up with alternative strategies to deal with the people they represent. We use our discretion in terms of how we take enforcement activities, right at the front end as police officers. We do a lot of work with the Crown in terms of having discretion, looking to diversion, for example, before there is a criminal charge and a matter gets to trial.

Police agencies in today's world are very alive to some of those challenges, and unfortunately it is because of some of the tragedies that we have had to endure and are still dealing with. We are still dealing with the missing women's case in Vancouver right now, but in northern B.C. we still have a lot of unsolved homicides and disappearances, of marginalized women in particular, which we have not resolved. Those will be ongoing challenges.

Senator Jaffer: You have really touched on what has been a concern for us. All the programs you were mentioning regarding diversion and alternative ways to deal with things, those are important, especially when you come to Aboriginal or marginalized people, and then comes mandatory minimum sentences. How do you deal with that?

Mr. Stamatakis: Mandatory minimum sentences come after the person has been charged. What I am saying is that from a front line policing perspective we will be charging people who are chronic offenders and engaged in serious crime.

Senator Jaffer: Are you saying you will not be charging the other people?

Mr. Stamatakis: You are from Vancouver. You can go into the Downtown East Side, some of those marginalized neighbourhoods in our city, and there are people who are using drugs or addicted to alcohol. We do not arrest and charge those people because that is not the right approach to take with them. We need to look at alternative approaches.

If you have an Aboriginal person who is maybe chronically addicted but is committing home invasions, we will arrest and charge that person. That person will then have to face the mandatory minimum sentencing provisions of this bill. From my perspective, that is fair enough. We also have to deal with the victims who have had their homes invaded and explain to them why nothing is happening.

Senator Jaffer: With this bill do you think the police force will be more involved with plea bargaining?

Mr. Stamatakis: I would say no, because we are not now anyway. Police forces typically now are involved in many more programs. We have a liaison person for the homeless. That person deals with homeless people, and we find shelter for them. We have a liaison person for the gay, lesbian and transgendered community in Vancouver. That police officer spends all her time dealing with issues important to that community. We do not even get to the whole arrest and charge piece. I just see a lot more of that happening.

If we want to have safe, healthy communities, I think there is an important role for the police to play in engaging in those kinds programs and bringing in other partners to solve those issues and not using the court system for them.

The Chair: Thank you. We are certainly beyond our time right now, and we have concluded the first round but I will make an exception. Senator Fraser was very gracious in her opening comments and very concise. You have a further, hopefully brief, question to put to Mr. Stamatakis.

Senator Fraser: Thank you very much. I would like to come back to the question of organized crime.

Let me make it plain: Nobody around this table supports organized crime. We are all delighted that the police go after organized crime. I am from Quebec and, as some other colleagues can confirm, we have our own long and spectacular history with organized crime.

I understood you to say that in the matter of drugs basically police are going after organized crime, which is great. However, as colleagues who were here yesterday will recall, I referred to a study of grow ops done by people in the Department of Justice. It was a carefully done and statistically valid sample of prosecution case files of grow ops. They found that 10 per cent of the files involved 10 plants or less, and that only 5 per cent of the cases had an indication that the offender was affiliated with organized crime or street gangs. Could you comment on that?

Mr. Stamatakis: I am not familiar with the report, but for sure there will be grow ops that police agencies take enforcement action against that might not be affiliated with organized crime. In fact, I dealt with one that involved a firefighter who saw it as an opportunity to make some quick cash. He, in his own home, unfortunately, was running a grow op with 300 plants.

I think the community would expect the police to do something about that because it is not just about what that person is doing within the context of his own home. There is the impact on stealing the hydro, the impact on neighbours, the risk that someone else finds out about it and wants to do a grow rip to steal that person's crops. There will be enforcement activity that involves people other than organized crime groups.

All I am saying is there is enough out there involving organized crime and people running bigger grow ops to keep the police busy without trying to find a person growing a few plants in their own home, not bothering anyone, not stealing hydro and not posing a risk to the community. Generally speaking, we will not be going after those people.

Where there was enforcement action taken against people growing 10 plants, maybe the context caused that particular law enforcement agency to do something about it. I do not know the context. In a smaller community, that might be a bigger deal, particularly if the people growing those 10 plants are engaged in other activities that are detrimental to the quality of life of people living in the same neighbourhood. I do not know. Those are all things to consider before deciding to take action. That is my expectation.

Senator Fraser: More study is needed. Thank you.

The Chair: Colleagues, that concludes today's discussion. Mr. Stamatakis, thank you so much for your contribution here today. I know for all of us there is a lot of information, some theoretical, some academic. We hear from government officials, but to hear it from the front line, you deal with the reality of the street every day, and it is certainly a viewpoint we need. Thank you very much. You brought it home loud and clear.

Mr. Stamatakis: Thank you. I appreciate the opportunity and I am happy to come back any time you would like. I also appreciate the fact that you are paying close attention to the bill and deliberating it. It is important, not just for police officers but for all Canadians, that it happens in this way. Thank you very much.

The Chair: We would agree with you.

Colleagues, we will adjourn until next Wednesday for the next portion of this hearing.

(The committee adjourned.)