Mr. Speaker, if my French were a bit better, then we would not need the interpretation, but I am working on it.
I do want to clarify something I was saying just before question period. I mentioned the situation regarding the Truro police officer Catherine Campbell and I referred to her as “Christine” Campbell, not “Catherine” Campbell. A good friend of mine is named Christine Campbell and it is easy for me to think in those terms.
Let me go back to question period today. Members of the official opposition, including me, again asked several government members and the public safety minister about the situation with respect to Tori Stafford and the fact that her killer has been moved to an aboriginal healing centre.
In the context of speaking of a victims bill of rights, I cannot believe for the life of me that the government is tripling down on this situation. Tomorrow we will be presenting an opposition day motion to deal with this situation, because Canadians are so outraged by this. Over the weekend, Tori Stafford's father issued a letter to the Prime Minister begging him to reverse this decision, which we are going to ask the government to do tomorrow.
It is my hope that the government will not quadruple down on this and will instead do the right thing. Canadians are outraged by this entire situation. They are outraged that the killer would be allowed to be placed not behind bars and razor wire, but instead be surrounded by trees at an aboriginal healing centre where there are children as well.
The minister tried to answer the question by saying that there are children at the Grand Valley Institution. The fact is that the Grand Valley Institution is entirely surrounded by fences and razor wire and the inmates are in pods behind bars.
The minister is suggesting that the two institutions are the same. One is a medium maximum security prison and the other is a medium minimum security prison. By the minister suggesting that they are similar, he is not being frank with Canadians, and that needs to be clarified.
When I was on the veterans affairs committee, we often dealt with the issue of PTSD and the impact that it has on our serving members. Quite a few forces members came before that committee and spoke about sexual assault and the impact it has. This again relates to Bill C-77. We had quite lengthy discussions at the veterans affairs committee over this and how it relates specifically to military justice and the Canadian justice system.
The purpose of Bill C-77 is to align the military justice system of Canada with the Criminal Code of Canada. The bill would do this in a number of ways, such as enshrining a victims bill of rights in the National Defence Act.
The Victims Bill of Rights was quite a comprehensive document. The intent of the previous government was, in contrast to the current government, to look after victims and their families to make sure that within the criminal justice system they were looked after. The emphasis in the Victims Bill of Rights was not on criminals but on the victims.
This piece of legislation would enshrine the Victims' Bill of Rights into the National Defence Act, putting a statute of limitations of six months on summary hearing cases and clarifying what cases should be handled by a summary hearing. Bill C-71 would have instituted these changes as well had it passed the previous Parliament.
The main difference between this legislation and Bill C-71 is the addition of the Gladue decision into the National Defence Act. This addition will mean that aboriginal members of the Canadian Forces facing charges under the National Defence Act would face lighter punishments and special consideration if convicted.
We have heard on this side of the House during the debate all day that it could result in sentences that are less harsh versus other CAF members, so the question of fairness comes into it. Members could undermine operational discipline, morale and anti-racism policies.
The vast majority of Bill C-77 is based on the previous Conservative government's bill. We are going to support this bill, but we are going to seek some amendments at the committee stage. Excuse the cynicism, but it is our hope that this bill and some of those amendments that come at committee will be looked at by the government side. I know that we will have lots of stakeholders who come to committee. There will be recommendations from those stakeholders, including first nations communities and other advocates for military justice and civil justice in this country. It is our hope that the government will listen to all the information that comes forward and will deal with some of those considerations. Again, the government has not shown that commitment in the past to being open to many of the recommendations, not just from the Conservative side but from the NDP side as well. We are hoping that the Liberals will do that.
The previous bill had hundreds of consultations. They had stakeholders. Victims and members of communities came forward and spoke to Bill C-71. We landed at a good place with that piece of legislation. However, the Gladue decision certainly made changes to that.
I am fortunate, as you are, Mr. Speaker, to be close to a military base, base Borden, or camp Borden, as it was known in the past. In the time I have spent at base Borden and with base commander Atherton, as well as Chief Warrant Officer Charette, many people who serve have come and gone. When I was the critic for veterans affairs, I used to travel across the country meeting with military members, veterans and stakeholders and their families. The first question I would ask when I was in front of them was how many had gone through base Borden, and the hands would go up. It is the largest training base in Canada. I used to ask how many were at camp Borden, and some hands would go up, and I would say to those people, boy, they were old, because it has not been camp Borden for a while.
It is an integral part of our community, and those members who are placed at base Borden, as Canada's largest training base, come from all over the country. In fact, they come from all over the world to train in languages and other disciplines. I am quite honoured to be able to represent an area that has a military base like base Borden. In fact, there are thousands of people who live in my riding who are stationed at the base and work there in either a military or civilian capacity. They are truly heroes, in my mind.
I try to spend as much time at the base as I can. I was there last week when the United Nations peacekeepers were in town. They were holding their biannual meeting, and I was there for a speech at the base. I went there for dinner and then there was a ceremony at Peacekeepers' Park in Angus.
It plays an important role in our community, and not just an economic role. The connection to the base is one that is valued and cherished, so supporting our military members at all levels, including with this piece of legislation, is critical in what we do here in Parliament as parliamentarians.
In conclusion, I would say that Bill C-77 is an important piece of legislation. We are supportive of this bill proceeding to committee. We think it needs some work and some scrutiny. Therefore, I hope that when it gets to committee, the majority Liberal side will take some of these concerns we have and that stakeholders have and implement this to make it a better piece of legislation.
I would be remiss if I did not speak about something that was a passion of mine. I am really disappointed that it never received support from Parliament. It received support from this side and the NDP side, but not from the government side. It is Bill C-378, which was a private member's bill I proposed about having a military covenant with our military members. We would have been only the second country in the world to establish such a covenant, behind Great Britain, and unfortunately, the government side did not support it. It related specifically to the sacrifice made by veterans. It is something I was very proud to present, and I was very sorry to see that it did not pass through this Parliament.
However, there is hope, because at our policy convention in Halifax just a few short weeks ago, members of the Conservative Party made it a point to ensure that as a matter of policy, a military covenant would be established between our veterans and the people of this country who owe them so much.