Madam Speaker, I commend the member for putting forth the proposed legislation. I too regret, as he mentioned in his speech, that Bill C-240 is not votable.
It is great to be able to talk about issues in this place called the Parliament of Canada, the place of speaking, the place of words, but the ultimate purpose should be to put our words into action in a practical sense so that our goals as members of parliament representing our constituents are actually met.
Our primary goal with legislation like this is, as has been mentioned over and over again, the protection of children and women. We are talking about the ability of serious criminals to change their name.
The other day we spoke at length about the need for a national registry of sex offenders, those who prey on women and children. The purpose of things like that is very clear. We know we cannot make people good just by passing a law, but we also know that the function of law is to restrain those who are evil. That is why we are here and why motions and bills like this should be votable. We should be able to actually implement ideas that will make our society safe and restrain those who would do very bad things.
I am very concerned that there is almost a passive response to these initiatives on the governing side. I know our current rules of debate will be subject to revision and we need to really seriously ask the question whether we should be even able to have such a debate without bringing it to a vote. The second and the more important issue here is that, with the parliamentary secretary having given a speech that said basically the Liberals do not favour the legislation, it would mean that even if we were able to vote, it would go nowhere because they would tell their people to vote against it and that would be the end of the matter.
We are suffering from a lack of a democratic environment in the House. We are in a situation where we need to change some of these laws.
I would like to address another issue in the bill, the issue of jurisdiction. It has been pointed out that the keeping of vital statistics is a provincial matter, and I believe that is correct. When our children were born in the province of Alberta, we registered their births in Edmonton, not in Ottawa. I should not say they were all born in Edmonton because we also had a daughter born in southern Alberta, in the little town of Brooks. However, their births were registered in Alberta. I personally have a birth certificate from Saskatchewan, the province in which I grew up.
However, the fact of the matter is that we are dealing here with a criminal issue. We are dealing with people who can change their names, move to a different jurisdiction and, consequently, by changing their identity can become an unknown danger to people around them.
The member from the Bloc made a very good point when he said that we ought not to put a wall in front of people who are genuinely rehabilitated, who want to get on with life and who, from this point onward, want to be good, law-abiding citizens.
However, I think we err when we buy into the argument that a person convicted of a crime and having paid the penalty to society, as it is often said, is then off the hook. In our country we often find people only serving two-thirds of their sentence because the government does not enforce the full rule of law.
The fact of the matter is that all of us have obligations. I have never been convicted let alone even charged with a crime and yet I have an obligation. When I walk down the street at night and there are other people sharing the sidewalk, I have the same obligation not to attack them as the person who has served time in jail for having attacked someone.
I submit that our obligation to society does not end when we have fulfilled a sentence for having broken the law. All of us carry an ongoing obligation to society to maintain our surveillance and protection of others around us.
It boggles my mind that there is such resistance to many of the measures that we are trying to implement and promote, which would enhance the safety of Canadian citizens. We should have a number of really good laws like the one being proposed that would improve the safety of Canadians.
We can say that it is too harsh but I do not believe that it is. I do not believe that some of the penalties we are proposing, for example, serving consecutive sentences for crimes that are committed rather than concurrently, are too harsh. If people think that is too harsh, let them simply not break the law. The law will never apply to them, and they will have freedom for life.
Let us say they break the law, violate the safety and violate in some cases the property of other people. In the case of property, there should be restitution. In the case of personal violence against individuals, there should be time penalties and incarceration. There should be no discount for consecutive offences. There should be rules that tell us that if we do certain things there are consequences, and then we should stick to it. I do not see why that is difficult.
I have always said that I personally do not care whether there is capital punishment for murder or not because I am not going to commit murder. Therefore, I do not expect to face a charge which will lead to capital punishment. For people who are contemplating it, hopefully it would restrain them. That would be the overriding purpose.
I have drifted a little from the purpose of the bill, which would disallow offenders from actually changing their names in order to hide behind the cloak of anonymity when they re-entered society. We need to help these people all we can. Knowing that they have committed a crime, I do not think is a hindrance to their rehabilitation. I do not think it is not as useful for them to be able to hide and pretend that they did not commit a wrong, as it is for them to face up to the crime, admit they did it and ask their new neighbours to help them to be strong, to do what is right and to fix their life. It is an ongoing process.
It is like alcoholics. When they go to Alcoholics Anonymous, even though they may not have drunk liquor for a number of years, they still begin their speeches by saying their names and that they are alcoholics. They recognize that there is an ongoing temptation and that it takes great inner strength and the strength of those around them to support the positive changes and not reoffend in that sense.
Yes, it may be difficult for a person who has committed a crime to live with that identity. I am aware of several individuals who have committed crimes of a lesser level. I am their friend and I help them. They are doing fine. We do not shut our eyes and pretend it never happened. We have to realistically admit that it happened and work together toward the goal that will guarantee it will never happen again in that individual's life.
I believe in the whole basis of taking responsibility for what one does. That is the missing link in a lot of what leads to criminal behaviour in our society these days. There are youngsters in school. They could be youngsters who go home, the parents are absent, certain things happen and they are allowed to do whatever they want without being personally held accountable for it. That develops and eventually we have the commission of these crimes. I urge all members to support the bill.