Debates of the Senate  
  2nd Session, 39th Parliament,Volume 144, Issue 36.
    Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Orders of the Day

Bill to Amend- Third Reading of Bill C-2, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.

  Hon. Lillian Eva Dyck: Would the honourable senator take another question?

Senator Cowan: Surely.

Senator Dyck: As you might imagine, my questions relate to the Aboriginal population. As the honourable senator probably knows, up to 80 per cent of Saskatchewan's prison population is Aboriginal. As Senator Cowan pointed out in his summary, as in the report, the percentage of Aboriginals incarcerated is about 20 per cent all across Canada.

I have listened to various comments about child molesters. Of course, we all want to punish child molesters; we do not anyone to suffer at the hands of a child molester.

Of the list of witnesses who appeared before the committee, were, let us say, 20 per cent from the Aboriginal population? Did the committee hear from people like the Aboriginal Healing Foundation, or from Aboriginal judges or elders who would have related their perspective on whether punishment would work?

It is ironic that this bill coincides with the ongoing Indian residential school settlement claims. We all know that many Aboriginal children were molested while they were in residential schools; we also know that a high proportion of Aboriginal people who are within the criminal justice system are re-enacting what happened to them.

My guess would be that punishment, in this case, does not work. Although it is good to get tough on crime, we must also be serious about rehabilitation.

In the witnesses that appeared before the committee, was there a perspective that would represent the Aboriginal culture, that would indicate whether they were in favour of this bill or whether they thought there were flaws with it?

Senator Cowan: I wish to thank the honourable senator for that question, which is very important one. I do not have the list of witnesses in front of me; hence, I shall have to rely on my recollection. Perhaps my colleagues will help me if I miss someone here.

We had a senior officer from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, who was an Aboriginal and who had spent a large part of his career dealing with these issues. We heard from the Aboriginal Legal Services of Toronto. I know that Senator Merchant was particularly diligent in questioning a number of witnesses not just those two witnesses because of her experiences in Saskatchewan as well.

I think all of us agree, even in the discussion we have had this afternoon, that whether this bill is good or bad, it is only one part. If it is good, as the government would contend, it will not solve the problem that the honourable senator and I are discussing right now. There are many more things; perhaps there are some circumstances that are peculiar to the Aboriginal population, which do not affect the rest of the population, that need to be addressed. This government and other governments are struggling with that issue.

No one would pretend, whether or not they agree with this bill and I think Senator Stratton made this point when he asked me a question a few minutes ago that, in and of itself, this bill will solve the problem. There are a variety of other issues to deal with.