moved the second reading of, and concurrence in, amendments made by the Senate to 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.
Mr. Speaker, I never get tired of talking about this subject. As hon. members know, the safe streets and communities act reintroduced nine bills that died on the order paper with the dissolution of the last Parliament. The government promised to enact these reforms within 100 days and we are delivering.
Before I turn my remarks to some of the key elements of the safe streets and communities act, I will highlight why our government has pursued these reforms and why and how this is important. It would be an understatement to say that our lives have changed substantially since the Criminal Code was first enacted in 1892. Much like other parliamentary democracies around the world, Canadian society and its values have and are continuously evolving and our justice system needs to evolve as well.
As Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, it is my responsibility to maintain the integrity of the justice system. We need legislation that is responsive to what is happening on our streets and meets the expectations of Canadians in the 21st century. The proliferation of drugs and violent crime is, unfortunately, a reality in this day and age and it is our job as parliamentarians to deal with criminals, to protect society and do whatever we can to deter crime.
The truth of the matter is that no parent wants their child to be the victim of a crime. We need only ask Lynne Lacasse whose 19-year-old son was senselessly murdered at a house party in 2004. Her son matters. She appeared before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights and before the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs in their studies of the safe streets and communities act. Her message was clear and it was not about vengeance. It was that the justice system needed to respond effectively and to learn from experience like that of her family so that, hopefully, other families do not suffer in the same way.
No parent wants their child to fall prey to a pedophile. In fact, parents list abduction and sexual exploitation as two of the three concerns they face with Canadian children. Any story on child pornography, whether it is about the pedophile who perpetrated the act or the one who watched it online, outrages each and every one of us. When involving a child, the consensus seems to be that sentences must be serious and lengthy.
Canadians are also concerned about the illicit drug trade. No Canadian wants to live next door to a grow op.
In British Columbia, Surrey Fire Service conducted a study and found that a home with a grow op was 24 times more likely to catch fire than a home without one. Even more troubling is that these fires are not always reported because no one actually lives in those dwellings, but there are families living right next door or across the street.
There are countless stories of Canadians who have been victimized and they are the first to lose confidence in our justice system. Many do not like to think these things happen in Canada until it happens to them or their loved ones. If we were to ask parents, I am sure they would say that the last thing they want is for their child to get involved in a life of crime or to become addicted to drugs. However, the sad reality is that it sometimes happens.
According to the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, illicit drug use costs Canadian society an estimated $8.2 billion a year. Canadian statistics show that offences involving certain types of illicit drugs, such as crystal meth, ecstasy, LSD, barbiturates and date rape drugs, rose by 168% between 1997 and 2007. As a parent, the fact that these are readily available is simply unacceptable. It is our job as parliamentarians to ensure we give the tools to law enforcement officials to prevent this and other crimes from happening.
My own Department of Justice conducted a comprehensive analysis of the cost of crime in 2008. The analysis included costs to the criminal justice system, for example police, court and prosecution costs; costs to the victims, including health costs, losses to property and losses to productivity; costs to third parties; and intangible costs such as pain, suffering and loss of life. It was estimated that those costs amount to approximately $100 billion. That is astounding and unacceptable.
Since 2007, I travelled from coast to coast listening to victims, community leaders, the police and my provincial counterparts. I have heard from them how best we can improve the Criminal Code. Victims tell me they want to ensure that nobody has to suffer the same sense of loss and frustration as they have.
Police impart upon me the necessity for more robust legislative tools so they can better protect Canadians. The provinces provide important regional perspective into crime and justice issues. For that, I have been very grateful. They often come forward with recommendations and requests for changes in the Criminal Code. Likewise, Canada's police forces across the country provide helpful insight and advice on our criminal justice system. They are, of course, the front-line experts when it comes to fighting crime. This input is crucial. We have responded.
Despite what some of our opponents say, we believe in a balanced and comprehensive approach to justice. Our government wants to prevent further victimization and make sure that Canada's most serious, violent criminals are kept off our streets. Our experience shows that toughening sentences does not create new criminals. It keeps the existing ones in prison for a more appropriate period of time. We want to make sure there is not a revolving door of justice.
Parliament has seen and debated all the measures included in the safe streets and communities act. This comprehensive legislation brings together nine bills: four previously introduced by me, four previously introduced by the Minister of Public Safety and one previously introduced by the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism. Over the past four years, the justice committee has spent 67 days reviewing these measures. That is 139 hours of discussion, 95 hours of debate, 261 speeches and 361 witness appearances.
It should be apparent by now why we have immersed these reforms into the safe streets and communities act. The act targets organized crime by imposing tough sentences for the production and trafficking of illicit drugs, and it responds to concerns about violent young offenders. It ends house arrest for serious crimes such as sexual assault, kidnapping and human trafficking, and it eliminates pardons for serious crimes such as sexual offences against children. It enacts legislation for victims of terrorism. It also prevents the abuse and exploitation of vulnerable immigrants. It enacts mandatory penalties for serious drug offences and all child sexual offences, all of them.
Much has been written about our government's introduction and passage of mandatory penalties for certain crimes. There are some myths surrounding this issue. Mandatory sentences have a long history in Canada. We are not the first government to introduce them. Indeed, over the years, both Liberal and Conservative governments have imposed mandatory minimum sentences. Today, the Criminal Code contains over 40 offences which carry a minimum sentence.
Criminal organizations that rely on the drug trade do not respect current penalties. They simply see them as a cost of doing business. The safe streets and communities act contains tougher penalties which specifically target the source of the illicit drug trade, the drug traffickers. The bill does not target substance abuse victims or experimenting teenagers. There are, contrary to some reports, no changes to the laws with respect to simple possession.
The kinds of offenders that we are targeting are those involved in exploiting the addictions of others. The fact is that police and prosecutors, those who work hard to keep our country safe, have been calling for these sentences for some time. They know all too well the reality on our streets with respect to drug dealers who infiltrate communities and cause irreparable harm, especially to our youth.
The amendments to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act would impose mandatory penalties for the offences of production, trafficking, possession for the purpose of trafficking, importing and exporting, possessing for the purpose of exporting Schedule I drugs, such as heroine, cocaine and methamphetamine, and Schedule II drugs, such as marijuana.
Mandatory penalties would apply where there is an aggravating factor. This includes where the production of a drug constitutes a potential security, health or safety concern, or the offence has been committed in or near a school.
The bill includes a specific exemption to allow for the use of drug treatment courts so that those who are unfortunately addicted can get the help they need. Drug treatment courts are for adult offenders who have committed non-violent crimes that are linked to their addictions. Our national anti-drug strategy provides $3.6 million per year to six drug treatment courts across Canada. By helping offenders overcome their addictions and improve their social stability, we will help reduce crime rates in this country. It is worth clarifying that even where there is no drug treatment court, the court sentencing the offender for a drug offence can still refer the offender for treatment if an appropriate treatment program is available and approved by the attorney general of the province.
The amendments for child sexual offences in the safe streets and communities and act have two objectives. First, they aim to consistently and adequately condemn all forms of child sexual abuse through the imposition of new and higher mandatory penalties for all sexual offences where the victim is a child. Second, they aim to prevent the commission of a sexual offence against a child through the creation of two new offences that target a certain type of conduct, as well as directing the courts to impose conditions that would prevent a suspected and convicted child sex offender from engaging in conduct that would enable or facilitate their sexual offending against a child. The current approach to penalties for child sexual abuse must end. The reforms in the safe streets and communities act would do just that.
The bill deals also with conditional sentences, usually referred to as house arrest. Our legislation would ensure that serious crimes such as sexual assault, kidnapping and human trafficking would not result in house arrest. Conditional sentences would continue to be unavailable for any offence with a mandatory minimum penalty. In addition, a conditional sentence would never be available for offences with a maximum of 14 years or life imprisonment; or for offences with a maximum penalty of 10 years that result in bodily harm or involve the import, export, trafficking or production of drugs or involve the use of a weapon; nor for a range of other offences including kidnapping, theft over $5,000 or motor vehicle theft. Our act would ensure that serious offences, including serious property offences like arson, would also not result in house arrest. This would ensure that jail sentences for such offences are served in jail.
Part 4 of the safe streets and communities act proposes amendments to the Youth Criminal Justice Act. These reforms would improve the ability to deal with violent and repeat young offenders, for example by highlighting the protection of the public, making it easier to detain young people charged with serious offences pending trial, ensuring that prosecutors consider seeking adult sentences for the most serious offences, prohibiting youth under 18 from serving sentences in an adult facility and requiring police to keep records of extra-judicial measures. The act continues to be a good framework to address young offenders. There is a shared view that young people should have the opportunity to be rehabilitated and have a second chance. However, there is also the concern that some youth, a small number who are out of control, are not being effectively dealt with under the current legislation. The safe streets and communities act reforms build on and preserve the solid framework of the act.
The amendments would not change the Youth Criminal Justice Act's current approach to making the principles of rehabilitation and reintegration of young persons who have committed offences the basis of our youth justice system. These reforms are not about detaining more or fewer youth. They are about facilitating appropriate and effective decision making at the pre-trial stage. This includes managing youth in the community where this is possible and ensuring that youth who should be detained can be detained. These reforms were previously proposed in the former Bill C-4 or Sébastien's law.
At the January 12 meeting of federal, provincial and territorial ministers of justice, we had a good discussion of the safe streets and communities act and the need for us to continue to work together toward its implementation.
Many of these reforms have been the subject of discussions over the years. Many are well supported by provincial and territorial ministers. The proposed reforms in the safe streets and communities act would come into force in the same manner as originally proposed. There is a coming into force clause for each part of the bill. The only parts of the safe streets and communities act that would come into effect on royal assent are the amendments relating to the Criminal Records Act and acts of terrorism. The other reforms, those to the Criminal Code, Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and the Youth Criminal Justice Act, would come into force on a day or days to be fixed by the order of the Governor in Council.
The Minister of Public Safety and I noted that we would seek the views of our provincial and territorial counterparts about the timely and effective implementation of these reforms. Clearly, as many of these amendments have been proposed for years, there is good reason to proceed expeditiously.
With the safe streets and communities act, our government would be once again sending out a message to criminals that they will be accountable for their actions and that crime will not be tolerated in this country. Our goal is to restore a sense of balance so that Canadians can continue to be confident in our justice system. The enactment of the safe streets and communities act would be another positive step for the people of this country.