Mr. Speaker, it is certainly an honour to stand in the House today to speak about what we on all sides of the House know is an important bill, one that will seek to put victims at the centre of military law going forward.
Before I go directly into the bill, there are a few things that I want to address. Last week was a very telling week for the government and Canadians watching the government, with regard to those who have served in the military and have been victimized in different ways and through different avenues, some through PTSD and other things. We heard the Minister of Veterans Affairs refer to the underfunding of Veterans Affairs, such as for prepaid phone cards or credit cards and getting those back. If that is the attitude toward our veterans after they have served our country, the government's attitude is probably not much different toward those who are currently serving. Therefore, I can understand why it took three years to finally bring this bill, which was already written, to the House.
This bill reminds me a lot of Bill C-71. We have waited three years for anything to come to the House for other victims of society. For those who deal with accessibility or disability issues, we were promised movement in six months, and we have it now finally after three years, and even then, we are not seeing anything with any teeth.
Over the last few weeks, we have also seen government not putting victims of crime at the centre of care. An individual who was convicted of murder has been given post-traumatic stress support by psychologists and funding from Veterans Affairs, while former members of the military go into any or all members' offices requesting the same. I do not think this is a partisan issue. I would guess that MPs whose ridings are near bases, like my riding, which is about 10 kilometres from a base, have dealt with and heard some very difficult stories from those currently serving, about the services they are looking for and not having those services signed off on by Veterans Affairs, or if they are currently serving, by the Department of National Defence.
There are incredibly heart-wrenching stories that MPs and these individuals deal with. They are just not put at the centre of the process. They are not cared for in the way we would hope. I feel it is the same in the case of Mr. Christopher Garnier, seeing the way he was treated versus many veterans who fought for our country and those currently serving fighting for our freedom or others' freedom around the world.
I will go directly into the bill at this point. Despite the fact that it has taken three years, I want to congratulate the minister for bringing the bill to the House. It is said that imitation is the greatest form of flattery, so it is wonderful to see the government copy and paste from the previous Conservative government's work on Bill C-71 and continue this march forward.
This is a bill that politicians from all parties in the House want to support, as there is no greater duty of the Government of Canada, indeed, any government, than to provide for the physical safety of its citizens, especially those serving within our military. Unfortunately, in many instances, the government cannot be everywhere at all times to prevent a crime from occurring. When such a thing does happen, it is the duty of the Canadian government to ensure that justice is administered in a fair and equitable way. Conservatives have always stood up for the victims of crime and we take pride in knowing that we stand on the side of justice and to ensure that victims have an effective voice in the criminal justice system.
It is because of these core values that our previous Conservative government enacted the Victims Bill of Rights, and why we support enshrining victims' rights within the military justice system. It is because of these core values that our Conservative government brought forward Bill C-71 in the last Parliament.
I believe in giving credit where credit is due, so I would again like to applaud the members of the government for reintroducing Bill C-71 under its new name. I would also like to reiterate that a Conservative government will always have the backs of victims of crime. That said, it should come as no surprise to the members opposite that we will be supporting Bill C-77's getting to the committee stage.
An essential requirement of justice is that justice is blind. There can be no preference in a court of law for a person's race, religion, sex, age or anything else. All Canadian citizens must be given equal and fair treatment in any case before the judiciary. This is a principle that is completely intertwined with the concept of justice. Equality before the law is something that stretches back almost a thousand years to the signing of the Magna Carta in England. Sadly, we have not always lived up to that high principle, but the concept of equality before the law has served as an excellent guiding compass in creating an ever more just society.
The military justice system in Canada comes from a long and distinguished history, going back to the roots of the British military. Any serious military force in the world requires a robust military justice system to improve and maintain the fighting effectiveness, discipline and morale of its fighting forces. It is because of our armed forces' effectiveness, discipline and morale that Canada and our allies have been so successful in protecting our God-given freedoms from aggressive foreign enemies.
With Remembrance Day very quickly approaching, we would all do well to reflect upon the sacrifice of our valiant men and women who made Canada, and how the military justice system contributed to their ultimate success. An effective military justice system is essential for both operational efficiency and to ensure that Canadians see justice being served and completed in a fair way. It is why the previous government brought forth legislation that mirrored the Victims Bill of Rights and made sure it was put into military law as well.
The previous Conservative government understood that the highest priority for every and any government must be the safety of its own citizens, and to ensure that justice is properly administered when prevention impossible. It is why putting the rights of victims front and centre of the criminal justice system is a central tenet of our party.
Prior to the previous government, the criminal justice system leaned far too heavily toward protecting the rights of criminals. The previous Conservative government believed that balance needed to be brought back to the criminal justice system, and so we took concrete steps to hold criminals accountable for their misdeeds.
One such concrete measure was to introduce the Safe Streets and Communities Act, which introduced mandatory minimum sentences for certain sexual offences and for drug dealers. Another such example was the Victims Bill of Rights, which gave victims of crime enhanced access to information, protection, participation and restitution. Taking that and applying it to our military justice system is certainly something we will stand behind. Through this process, I am sure there are going to be ideas brought to the table on how to better this bill and strengthen it where it perhaps has failings. However, on the whole, I want to see, as I know all members of this House do, this move forward in principle.
In terms of the victims of crime, I said that last week was a defining week for what Canadians saw of their government, especially when it comes to victims of crime and to criminals themselves. At question period, question after question was asked about one of the killers of Tori Stafford. The killer was moved from one medium security facility to another, and in this case, she was removed from behind bars to a healing lodge. Canadians were very upset. However, no one was more upset than the father of Tori Stafford. We saw that through the media. We saw that through statements from him. We certainly saw that through Canadians who were around the family.
I found it incredibly telling when members on this side asked the Prime Minister what he was going to do to correct this injustice and support the victims rather than the person who had participated in this brutal murder. After question after question, the answer consistently seemed to be that the Prime Minister was outraged that members of the House would stand up in defence of the victims in this case and talk about the crime that was committed. The Prime Minister asked us to no longer speak about the details of the crime itself.
What really struck me was why the Prime Minister was not upset about the crime itself. Why was the Prime Minister admonishing members of the House for bringing up the factual details of how a person who had murdered an eight year old was moved to a healing lodge, instead of standing up and saying that the person who committed this crime was not serving out what Canadians would consider justice in moving to this place, and condemning the change in the facility, and moving forward hand in hand with Canadians and, more importantly, hand in hand with the victims of this crime, Tori Stafford's family?
I could not get over it. I did not understand it, especially when we consider that Bill C-77 is coming forward and we are talking consistently, as a House, about standing up for Canadians who are unable to stand up for themselves. I do not remember going to a single door where someone said that criminals needed more rights, that people who commit murders need more rights and that we need to be talking about their rights more and more. However, I do remember hearing over and over again from Canadians that we need to ensure that we protect our citizens. We need to ensure that we support victims. It does not matter where in this country they are. It does not matter the colour of their skin. It does not matter their religion or faith. It does not matter their sexual orientation. It does not matter whether they are male or female. We need to ensure that we are protecting Canadians, and one way we protect Canadians is by ensuring that those who are victims are given the supports they need.
However, that was not demonstrated in the House by the government and the Prime Minister last week. Instead, we saw the Prime Minister going in the complete opposite direction of what I believe the bill being presented by the government is trying to do. When laying the facts out and asking questions about cases in which victims have been severely hurt, we were admonished in this case for talking about what happened to this young lady. However, it was not deemed terrible that the person who did it has seen a form of freedom they do not deserve and is completely unjust. I just do not get it. I am trying to rationalize the same government bringing forward the bill before us, which sat on a shelf for three years, with a government that could not come out and say this was unjust.
Day after day, we need to be consistent. The message to Canadians needs to be consistent, that we will take the side of victims, that if people commit crimes, especially heinous crimes, as in the two situations I brought up today, they will pay the full penalty, the full price. Even when they are paying that penalty, that full price, it will never, ever undo the pain that has been caused to their victims.
We, as parliamentarians, need to ensure from this moment forward that when we are talking about these crimes and these victims, when there are individual cases that need to be delved into because of some injustice that has happened, that we are respectful on both sides of the House. However, the first piece of respect needs to be that it is not wrong to speak about the crime that has happened, but it is wrong to let the injustice continue.
I know, as we look forward with respect to changes to the military justice system, with respect to changes that are brought forward by the bill, that they will be done with the best of intentions, that some banter and some debate will occur at the committee level, that there will likely be amendments brought forward and that there will be testimony from those who serve in the military, from different organizations, victims' organizations, etc.
I hope, as we go through that process, we can sincerely put the victim at the centre of that process, not just a bill, not just our talking points. I hope we can move forward putting victims at the centre of the bill to ensure that what comes out committee is even better than the one that goes in and that we can win the support of everybody in the House.
I would like to end with one piece. I have a mother who is an incredible woman. I got my activism from her. For many years she lobbied, and many of the members in the House have received letters and requests, that victims, specifically of sexual crimes, be put first. I take notice of being able to stand to speak to this bill, of being able to look back, whether it was at the white ribbon campaign against child pornography, or human trafficking or many other things, which the Victims Bill of Rights was originally brought in to help with and now is being applied to the military justice system.
I take a lot of pride in knowing that one Canadian, and I am sure there was at least one in every riding, stood up and put pressure on the government of the day to bring something forward. I take a lot of pride in standing up as a Conservative, knowing that it was our government that brought forward the Victims Bill of Rights. I take pride in knowing that we brought forward this bill, before the end of our mandate. I take pride in knowing that I will be able to be part of this hopeful solution at the end.