Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise in the House and speak to Bill C-75, an act to amend the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and other acts and to make consequential amendments to other acts.
It is disappointing to again see the Liberal government bring in a 300-page omnibus bill after the Liberals specifically said in their campaign promises that they were not going to do that. However, a broken promise a day seems to be the order of the Liberal government.
That said, let us think about what we are trying to accomplish in our judicial system and then look at how Bill C-75 may or may not fit into that.
What we first want to do in our criminal justice system is define the behaviour that is criminal. We want to say which things are not acceptable in Canadian society. That would be goal number one. Goal number two would be to make sure that appropriate punishments are established to deter people from perpetrating these crimes. We want to make sure that we have those appropriate punishments defined. We want to make sure that victims rights are protected, that we are not just focused on the criminal but we are also focused on making sure that victims rights are protected. Then we want to make sure that whatever rules we decide, we actually enforce them in a timely way.
I think that is really what we want to get out of the criminal justice system.
If we look at the Conservative record, everyone in Canada well knows that the Conservatives want to be tough on crime. We want to ensure that if people commit crimes, they do the time. We want to make sure that people are not just let off the hook.
If we look at the Liberals' record on this, it is not quite so clear. In fact, I would argue that the criminals seem to be making out very well under the Liberals.
The first issue is the Liberal government's failure to appoint judges so that cases could be tried in a timely way. According to the Jordan principle, if they are not tried in a timely way, within two years, those people will go free. We have seen murderers and rapists having their cases thrown out of court because there were not enough judges being appointed. Clearly, that is a failure of the Liberal government. We are in the fourth year of a four-year mandate and there are still vacancies, which is causing cases to continually be thrown out.
If the government were responsible, at some point it should have taken a look at perhaps more minor crimes. For example, if it thought that it was going to legalize marijuana, perhaps any of the charges with respect to possession of marijuana that were in the system could have been punted in order to focus on prosecuting more serious crimes, like murder and rape. However, that was not done.
The other thing we saw is that the Liberal government is continually trying to soften the penalties for crime.
Today, in Canadian society, it is a crime to disrupt a religious ceremony or to threaten a religious official or cleric. The Liberal government tried to put Bill C-51 in place to take away those protections with respect to worship and the clerics. There was a huge outcry across Canada. I know that all the churches in my riding wrote letters. There were many petitions that were brought forward. There was a huge outcry from Canadians, so the government backed off on that. Now we see that the government has brought this back under Bill C-75 as one of the things the government wants to reduce sentences on to a summary conviction, which would be less than two years in prison or a fine for obstructing or violence to or arrest of an officiating clergyman. It seems a little bit sneaky that the government heard a clear message from Canadians to back off and then it tried to slide it into another bill. That is not a good thing.
Let us look at some of the other crimes that are now considered in Bill C-75 to be minor and subject to a judge's decision on whether or not they get a fine or a summary conviction of up to a two-year maximum.
One is prison breach. Really, somebody who breaks out of prison is going to be given a fine. That should not even be an option. Municipal corruption is another thing on the list, as is influencing or negotiating appointments or dealing in offices. We have already talked about obstructing or violence to clergymen.
Another is impaired driving offences causing bodily harm. It is unbelievable that at this particular moment in time, when the Liberals have just legalized marijuana and every other jurisdiction has seen a tripling of traffic deaths due to impaired drug driving, they would decide that this crime is less serious and people might be able to get off with just a summary conviction or a fine.
Regarding abduction of a person under the age of 16 or abduction of a person under the age of 14, what is a more serious crime than kidnapping a child? I cannot imagine. To give that person a fine or a summary conviction just seems like there is no moral compass whatsoever.
It is interesting that polygamy is on the list. We have not had a lot of trouble. Polygamy has always been illegal in Canada. Why are we now saying that we would reduce the penalty for polygamy and make it a fine?
What about forced marriage? I was at the foreign affairs committee yesterday, and we had testimony from the Congo, Somalia and South Sudan about the dire situations there and 50% of girls being forced into child marriage and what a horrendous impact that had on their life. The Liberal members of the committee were sitting there saying, “Oh, this is a terrible thing.” However, here in our own country, we have decided that the penalty for forced marriage is going to be a fine or a less-than-two-years summary conviction. It is ridiculous.
Arson, for a number of reasons, is now on this list and is not considered that serious when in fact it drives up the cost of insurance and it takes people's homes. It is obviously a serious crime.
Participating in the activities of a criminal organization is now on here as not being that serious. The government members have been standing up, day after day, talking about trying to eliminate organized crime from Canada. Now if people are part of organized crime, apparently that is not a serious offence.
Therefore, Bill C-75 does not meet what we said we wanted to meet originally in our justice system. We wanted to talk about the appropriate punishments that need to be established to deter crime. That is not what is happening here.
In addition to all of those things, we see that there are other changes recommended in this bill. There is the repealing of the victim surcharge changes that were brought by the Conservatives. It is important that we protect victims' rights and that there is a fund that will help victims in some way after they have suffered a crime.
Removing the power to have a youth tried as an adult is a bit concerning to me. There are some very heinous crimes where the judges still need to have the ability to do that.
Delaying consecutive sentencing for human traffickers was an important law that was brought into place under the Conservative government. We have a huge issue with human trafficking. From my riding to Toronto, there is a huge ring. If someone were caught human trafficking, it would not be just one life that was impacted. There would be hundreds of girls involved. The consecutive sentence allowed individuals to be sentenced for each one of those victims and not get out of prison for a very long time, for what is a heinous crime.
I always like to say what the good things are that I like about the bill as well as the things that I do not like. I see in here that the only increases in penalties are for repeat offenders on intimate partner violence. I am glad to see that because the government has been totally inadequate in its response to violence against women. As the former chair of the status of women committee, we studied and found that one in three Canadian women suffers from violent acts in her lifetime. It has been disappointing to see that the current government, while pledging $400 million in the last budget for StatsCan to steal people's private information, gave $20 million a year to address the problem of violence against women. That has been totally inadequate. At least the Liberals have done something in this bill to try to move forward on that.
In summary, I would say that this bill has not met the objectives. It has not helped put penalties in place. In fact, I would argue that it would erode the penalties that people would receive.
I call on the justice minister to do her job, to appoint the justices who are missing and to put in place punishments that fit the crime. I have brought numerous petitions to the House on Bill C-75 to just eliminate it.
The Liberals talk about trying to get wait times down. They could get wait times down by not trying any criminals and not putting any of them in prison. That would get the wait times down, but it would not achieve what we want in our justice system, which is to define the crimes and to define adequate punishment and ensure that they are enforced in a timely way.