An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and other Acts and to make consequential amendments to other Acts

Sponsor

Status

In committee (House), as of June 11, 2018

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Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Criminal Code to, among other things,

(a) modernize and clarify interim release provisions to simplify the forms of release that may be imposed on an accused, incorporate a principle of restraint and require that particular attention be given to the circumstances of Aboriginal accused and accused from vulnerable populations when making interim release decisions, and provide more onerous interim release requirements for offences involving violence against an intimate partner;

(b) provide for a judicial referral hearing to deal with administration of justice offences involving a failure to comply with conditions of release or failure to appear as required;

(c) abolish peremptory challenges of jurors, modify the process of challenging a juror for cause so that a judge makes the determination of whether a ground of challenge is true, and allow a judge to direct that a juror stand by for reasons of maintaining public confidence in the administration of justice;

(d) increase the maximum term of imprisonment for repeat offences involving intimate partner violence and provide that abuse of an intimate partner is an aggravating factor on sentencing;

(e) restrict the availability of a preliminary inquiry to offences punishable by imprisonment for life and strengthen the justice’s powers to limit the issues explored and witnesses to be heard at the inquiry;

(f) hybridize most indictable offences punishable by a maximum penalty of 10 years or less, increase the default maximum penalty to two years less a day of imprisonment for summary conviction offences and extend the limitation period for summary conviction offences to 12 months;

(g) remove the requirement for judicial endorsement for the execution of certain out-of-province warrants and authorizations, expand judicial case management powers, allow receiving routine police evidence in writing, consolidate provisions relating to the powers of the Attorney General and allow increased use of technology to facilitate remote attendance by any person in a proceeding;

(h) allow the court to exempt an offender from the requirement to pay a victim surcharge if the offender satisfies the court that the payment would cause the offender undue hardship, provide the court with guidance as to what constitutes undue hardship, provide that a victim surcharge is to be paid for each offence, with an exception for certain administration of justice offences if the total amount of surcharges imposed on an offender for those types of offences would be disproportionate in the circumstances, require courts to provide reasons for granting any exception for certain administration of justice offences or any exemption from the requirement to pay a victim surcharge and clarify that the amendments described in this paragraph apply to any offender who is sentenced after the day on which they come into force, regardless of whether or not the offence was committed before that day; and 

(i) remove passages and repeal provisions that have been ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of Canada, repeal section 159 of the Act and provide that no person shall be convicted of any historical offence of a sexual nature unless the act that constitutes the offence would constitute an offence under the Criminal Code if it were committed on the day on which the charge was laid.

The enactment also amends the Youth Criminal Justice Act in order to reduce delays within the youth criminal justice system and enhance the effectiveness of that system with respect to administration of justice offences. For those purposes, the enactment amends that Act to, among other things,

(a) set out principles intended to encourage the use of extrajudicial measures and judicial reviews as alternatives to the laying of charges for administration of justice offences;

(b) set out requirements for imposing conditions on a young person’s release order or as part of a sentence;

(c) limit the circumstances in which a custodial sentence may be imposed for an administration of justice offence;

(d) remove the requirement for the Attorney General to determine whether to seek an adult sentence in certain circumstances; and

(e) remove the power of a youth justice court to make an order to lift the ban on publication in the case of a young person who receives a youth sentence for a violent offence, as well as the requirement to determine whether to make such an order.

Finally, the enactment amends among other Acts An Act to amend the Criminal Code (exploitation and trafficking in persons) so that certain sections of that Act can come into force on different days and also makes consequential amendments to other Acts.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

June 11, 2018 Passed 2nd reading of 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
June 11, 2018 Failed 2nd reading of 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 (reasoned amendment)
June 11, 2018 Failed 2nd reading of 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 (subamendment)
May 29, 2018 Passed Time allocation for 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

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

May 24th, 2018 / 4:35 p.m.
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Eglinton—Lawrence Ontario

Liberal

Marco Mendicino LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Madam Speaker, I want to begin by thanking my hon. colleague for his comments, which I found to be very constructive, and for his recognition of the fact that Bill C-75 is about addressing systemic barriers for marginalized people, for vulnerable people, and for victims.

To build on that, with regard to the comments he made about preliminary inquiries, I hope on reflection he will acknowledge that by reducing the eligibility of offences for preliminary inquiries, what we are trying to do is avoid unnecessary retraumatization of victims of intimate partner violence.

I would also encourage him to reflect on the fact that when he cites one particular statistic with regard to 3% of charges, it is charges, not court time. It may be 3% of charges, but it represents disproportionately much more expenditure of court time and resources.

The last thing I would like him to do is to expand on his personal support for the abolishment of peremptory challenges, which are inexorably linked the difficulties and the challenges that we have had around under-representation of indigenous peoples and other marginalized peoples on our juries. It is very important that we move closer to a more open and transparent jury selection process. I hope he will take the time and effort to expand on why he supports the abolishment of peremptory challenges.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

May 24th, 2018 / 4:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Madam Speaker, I want to thank my friend for Victoria for his speech. It perhaps would not surprise many that as a Conservative member, I would not agree with the member on everything, but nonetheless I think he raised a number of good points in his speech.

The member raised the issue of hybridization of offences and the fact that it would download cases onto the provincial court and onto the provinces. However, one of the purported objectives of Bill C-75 is to deal with the Jordan decision, which imposes strict timelines before delay is deemed to be presumptively unreasonable. It is 30 months for matters in Superior Court and 18 months for matters in provincial court.

How does downloading cases to provincial court by making them prosecutable by way of summary conviction address the issue of Jordan? It seems that instead of reducing the number of cases that could potentially be thrown out, it might increase the number.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

May 24th, 2018 / 4:40 p.m.
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Liberal

Marco Mendicino Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Madam Speaker, during an exchange with one of the Conservative members, my colleague asked what the record is with regard to consultations on Bill C-75 and the overall criminal justice review process.

I thought it would be helpful to inform the member that we have conducted over 20 round tables across the country; have received 11,400 written online submissions; and have engaged with our federal, provincial, and territorial partners, and with members of the judiciary at every level. It is on the basis of those engagements that we decided to put forward this historic, bold legislation, which is going to cure delay. With that now on the record in the chamber, I am hoping that the member will join us in addressing the culture of complacency that was identified as one of the great challenges by the Supreme Court of Canada in its Jordan decision.

I also encourage my hon. colleague to address the question that I put to him earlier about his support for the abolishment of peremptory challenges.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

May 24th, 2018 / 4:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Madam Speaker, I rise to speak to Bill C-75, another omnibus bill introduced by a government that said it would never introduce an omnibus bill, but here we are again with another 300-page bill.

Quite frankly, there are some provisions in Bill C-75 that I support, but on the whole I believe this legislation to be deeply problematic.

Before I address the substance of Bill C-75, I want to talk a bit about the process surrounding Bill C-75.

This omnibus legislation reintroduces four government bills currently before the House of Commons: Bill C-28, Bill C-32, Bill C-38 and Bill C-39. This is the third piece of legislation the government has introduced to repeal section 159 of the Criminal Code, the unconstitutional section related to anal sex.

With much fanfare, the Liberals introduced Bill C-32. They wanted to take tremendous credit for introducing that bill that proposes to repeal section 159. It was such a priority for the government that a year and a half later, Bill C-32 remains stuck at first reading.

Not to be outdone, they proceeded to introduce Bill C-39, which would remove unconstitutional sections of the Criminal Code, also known as zombie laws. That included section 159 of the Criminal Code. It was introduced on March 8, 2017, and it was such a priority of the government that more than a year later, Bill C-39 remains stuck at first reading.

Now, for the third time, the government has introduced, with Bill C-75, another attempt to remove section 159 of the Criminal Code.

How many bills is it going to take the Liberal government to repeal one simple section of the Criminal Code? It speaks to the utter incompetence of the government and its complete inability to move justice legislation forward. In light of that record of incompetence and failure, Canadians should be left to ask the question: how it is that the government can be trusted to address delay in our courts when it cannot even manage its own legislative agenda?

The purported objective of Bill C-75 is to deal with the backlog in our courts. It arises from the Jordan decision that was issued by the Supreme Court almost two years ago. The Supreme Court of Canada determined that there would be strict limits before delay would become presumptively unreasonable. The remedy that the Supreme Court provided in the case of delay was that the charges against the accused person would be stayed, in other words, thrown out of court. The strict timeline that the Supreme Court provided was 30 months between the laying of charges and the anticipated or actual conclusion of a trial for matters before superior courts, and 18 months for matters before provincial courts.

It has been almost two years since the Jordan decision and in those nearly two years, the Minister of Justice has sat on her hands and done absolutely nothing to deal with delay and backlog. The minister is so incompetent that she could not get around to doing the simplest and easiest thing, which is to fill judicial vacancies in a timely manner.

Under this Minister of Justice's watch, we have seen a record number of judicial vacancies. Indeed, the average number of vacancies has consistently been between 50 to 60. In the province of Alberta, where the issues of backlog and delay are most acute, the provincial government tried to respond in 2016, by way of order in council, establishing 10 new judicial positions, nine Court of Queen's Bench positions and one Alberta Court of Appeal position. The government, to its credit, in budget 2017, provided funding for additional judicial positions. All the minister had to do was fill them.

Do members know how long it took the minister to appoint a new judge in Alberta?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

May 24th, 2018 / 4:50 p.m.
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Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

More than a year, Madam Speaker. It was not until December 2017 that Justice Grant Dunlop, my former colleague by the way, was appointed as a justice of the Court of Queen's Bench. He is a very good appointment, but, unfortunately, it is only one. Now that we are in May 2018, the government still has not filled most of those new judicial spots.

Thus, while the minister talks about taking action, her record demonstrates otherwise. This is not just an academic or abstract issue. There are real and serious consequences to the minister's inaction. We have seen hundreds of cases thrown out of court due to delay, and thousands more are at risk. Some of these cases involve the most serious of charges, including murder and sexual assault. We are talking about cases that are stayed or thrown out. The accused person, even when there is overwhelming evidence that he or she did the crime, are free to walk our streets.

In his speech, the hon. member for Victoria alluded to Nick Chan, whose case was was recently thrown out in Calgary. Who is Nick Chan? He is someone who was facing first degree murder charges. He is someone who was charged with directing a criminal organization. Nick Chan is the head of the so-called “Fresh off the Boat” gang, a gang that is linked to more than a dozen murders. Some have called Nick Chan one of the most dangerous, if not the most dangerous, men in Calgary. Today, Nick Chan is a free man.

The minister does bear some responsibility for that outcome by her failure to get judges appointed in Alberta and across Canada. Nick Chan is not the first dangerous criminal who is now a free man or woman. Unfortunately, because of the government's inaction he will not be the last.

After two years of doing nothing, the government has now come forward with Bill C-75. This is really a ramshackle piece of legislation. One of the things the government has touted as doing a lot to reduce delay is the limiting of preliminary inquiries. Indeed, the Supreme Court in the Jordan decision said that in light of the Stinchcombe decision, which is more than a quarter of a century old, that perhaps it is time for Parliament to reconsider the utility of preliminary inquiries. Since the Stinchcombe decision, defence counsel have a constitutional right to full disclosure, and preliminary inquiries are a form of disclosure.

However, at the same time, to the degree that it makes sense to limit preliminary inquiries, and to the degree that that will speed things up, it is important, I think, to know what the hon. member for Victoria stated in his speech, which was that preliminary inquiries account for a very small number of cases.

The Canadian Bar Association has indicated that the proportion of cases that involve preliminary inquiries is less than 5% of cases, and takes no more than 2% of court time.

Perhaps this is a good measure, one measure in this massive bill that is a positive. However, with respect to the larger scheme of dealing with the backlog and the delay, at best, it is a very small step in the right direction.

Then there are aspects of the bill that instead of actually reducing the delays and backlog, they will likely contribute to the backlog. Again, I did not agree with everything the hon. member for Victoria said, but I thought he raised a good point about routine police evidence in the bill, which more than likely will result in defence counsel having to bring forward an application, which will cause delay, an application that in all likelihood will be granted.

With respect to the issue of routine police evidence, it seems that it provides a solution in search of a problem that does not exist, and in so doing has created another problem, a problem that will contribute to delay.

Then there is the hybridization of offences. This the part of the legislation that I, and I think most of my colleagues on the Conservative side, have the biggest issue with, and that is the watering down of sentences.

Before I address how Bill C-75 waters down sentences for some very serious crimes, I want to comment on what this impact would be from the standpoint of the Jordan decision. After all, that is why we are debating Bill C-75.

The hybridization of offences means that indictable offences that are currently prosecuted in Superior Courts now will be prosecutable in provincial courts by way of summary conviction. The timeline that the Supreme Court provides in Jordan is 30 months in which a case must be concluded, successfully prosecuted or a determination made about the guilt or innocence of the accused person, before a delay is deemed presumptively unreasonable, upon which it is at risk of being thrown out of court. By contrast, there is only an 18-month timeline in provincial court. It is reducing the time by almost half before the case is at risk of being thrown out.

How does that help address Jordan? It does not. It is a matter of simply downloading cases onto the provinces. It is similar to what the government did with the marijuana legislation. It said that it would throw legislation together, take some political credit, but when it would come to sorting out all the issues, when it would come to the costs related to implementation and enforcement, the provinces could deal with it. The government washed its hands clean.

That is what the government is doing with respect to the hybridization, the watering down of sentences for serious indictable sentences. It is downloading them onto the provinces, onto provincial courts, which already have and deal with the bulk of criminal cases that go before courts across Canada.

It will not solve Jordan, but what will it actually do? Under the guise of creating efficiencies in our justice system, the government is watering down sentences for serious crimes. By introducing this just before Easter, it hoped Canadians would not notice.

What sorts of offences are being watered down? We are talking about participating in a terrorist organization, impaired driving causing bodily harm, kidnapping a minor, forced marriage, polygamy, or arson for fraudulent purposes. Do those not sound like serious offences? The minister said that she was doing this so the serious cases could go to superior courts. I have news for the minister. Kidnappers, terrorists, child abductors, arsonists, and impaired drivers are serious criminals who deserve serious time for serious crime, which the government is taking away, or opening the door to not happening. Instead, it is opening the door to these serious criminals getting away with a fine instead of up to 10 years in prison, which is currently provided for in the Criminal Code for those offences.

The government talks about the discretion of judges. It makes a big deal about the discretion of judges. Under Bill C-75, the government would be taking away the discretion of a judge, under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, to lift the publication ban of a young offender to protect public safety, when the judge determines there is evidence that young offender will commit another serious offence.

The government is always talking about judicial discretion when it helps criminals, but when it comes to protecting the public, the government does not want them to have that discretion. It speaks to a government which time and again works hard to reward criminals, makes life more difficult for victims, and has no regard for the public safety of Canadians. This is evidenced by taking away the discretion from judges, failing to appoint judges, and watering down sentences for kidnappers, arsonists, terrorists, among other offenders.

In short, Bill C-75 would make it easier for criminals and would download cases onto the provinces. It contains measures that would increase the delay in our justice system instead of decreasing it, resulting in more criminal cases potentially being thrown out of court as a result of Jordan. In so doing, it undermines public confidence in the administration of justice. It is an absolutely terrible bill that needs to be defeated.

With that, I move:

That the amendment be amended by adding the following: “and (e) potentially reducing penalties for very serious crimes by proposing to make them hybrid offences, including the abduction of a child under 14, material benefit from trafficking, breach of prison, participation in activity of a terrorist group or criminal organization, advocating genocide, amongst many others.”

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

May 24th, 2018 / 5:05 p.m.
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Eglinton—Lawrence Ontario

Liberal

Marco Mendicino LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Madam Speaker, I listened attentively to my hon. colleague across the aisle. He spoke at length about this government's record on judicial appointments. The irony is that when put to him what the precise record was, he acknowledged that one of the most recent appointments in his home province of Alberta was Justice Grant Dunlop, who he said was a very good appointment. I encourage my hon. colleague to not divorce himself from the facts when he speaks about the criminal justice system in our country.

To that one very good appointment, which my hon. colleague acknowledges was a strong one, we have made 32 other appointments in the province of Alberta, bringing to a total of 80 federal judges in the province of Alberta, five more than at any point in time under the Harper Conservative administration.

If the hon. colleague was concerned about victims and about ensuring there were not miscarriages of justice, then he would have supported the historic investments to provide additional judges to the court and to provide training and resources to the members of the judiciary. He chose not to do that. He chose to oppose those investments. Now he has an opportunity to redeem himself by supporting Bill C-75. I hope on reflection he and his colleagues will do just that.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

May 24th, 2018 / 5:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Marco Mendicino Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Madam Speaker, there we have it laid bare for all Canadians to see, that the Conservatives are not interested in debate. They are not interested in having a dialogue about how we can improve the criminal justice system. They are interested in blocking and obstructing the passage of a bill that would bring to justice those offenders who have committed serious crimes, a bill that would reduce barriers and encourage victims to come forward. In the last 15 minutes, we have seen two amendments and subamendments put forward. That is the type of trickery that Canadians have come to see and expect from the Conservative Party of Canada. They have learned no lessons in the last two years. We are going to continue to debate Bill C-75 because we know it is good, evidence-based legislation.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

May 24th, 2018 / 5:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Blaine Calkins Conservative Red Deer—Lacombe, AB

Madam Speaker, I certainly am pleased to stand on behalf of the constituents of Red Deer—Lacombe. If many of them actually knew what the Liberal government was proposing through Bill C-75, they would be up in arms about it. This is why.

Much like my colleagues from St. Albert—Edmonton and Bow River said, Alberta right now is going through some tough times. We are not just going through tough times economically as a result of low oil prices and abysmal policies federally and provincially when it comes to our energy sector, but also as a result of crime, especially in the central Alberta region right now.

The City of Red Deer and the central Alberta area are among the most dangerous areas and communities in Canada to live. Rural crime in Alberta has been an ongoing issue of great magnitude for the past several years. In fact, my colleagues and I who have rural components in our ridings in Alberta have worked with our provincial colleagues to have a rural crime task force over the last six months. We have consulted widely with stakeholders. We have consulted with Albertans. I had three town halls in January. I had influenza and pneumonia at the time, but I still made it to those meetings, where hundreds of people filled halls in our community. I know this would be the same for my colleagues.

I met with the RCMP, law enforcement officers, and virtually every stakeholder impacted by this, including victim services organizations, rural crime watch organizations, and citizens on patrol. All of these organizations gave us clear direction of where they wanted their government to go. If they read and knew about the contents of Bill C-75, they would realize that on virtually everything they advised us to do, the bill does the exact opposite. This is the problem.

Here are some of the things I heard loud and clear from the constituents I represent, and from police officers as well. I met with every detachment, including Rimbey, Sylvan Lake, Blackfalds. I met with city police in Lacombe and the Red Deer city police, who are RCMP as well. I met with Ponoka. I met with everyone I possibly could on this issue.

The problem they face is what happens after police catch criminals. Here I am talking about the current laws we have today, not the watered down version that Canadians are going to get. This is about the current legislation today.

A police officer can arrest someone who is in possession of stolen property from at least 10 different break and enters for theft. They hold these people in cells and take them to their hearings, where they will get bail. Part of the bail provisions these people get is an instruction that they not associate with any of the people who have also been charged with these crimes, and that they not participate in any more illegal activity. They are given a slap on the wrist and off they go.

Five days later, the RCMP or police will pick up these same individuals in the same area. They will find them in possession of stolen property from other illegal break and enters. The value of that property is in the thousands of dollars, and usually motor vehicles are involved either as a tool or to get to a crime scene, or to be stolen. These individuals will be held in cells and will go back before the judge again. Now they are there facing charges from the previous break and enters, now breach of bail conditions, and now more theft and break and enter charges. What does the judge do again? It is a slap on the wrist and away the criminal goes.

I spent a lot of time as a fisheries technician, an angler, and a fishing guide. I understand the value of catch-and-release, but when it comes to crime, catch-and-release is bad policy. This is not working for the people I represent, and it is only going to get worse. It is called the revolving door on crime. The police and the people in the communities know this. It is the same people doing the same things over and over again without consequence. This is a critical problem.

I have a private member's slot coming up and I was going to present a bill to the House that would have created an escalating clause for theft over $5,000 because of the magnitude, cost, and impact that is having on the communities I represent. There seem to be no ongoing consequences for this, but if there were an escalator on a second, third, or subsequent charges of theft over $5,000, or for stealing motor vehicles, there would be consequences for the more crimes someone commits. It should cost them more.

Here is the problem. In Alberta, the current federal government has been negligent in appointing judges. The government cannot say that there are not good, qualified candidates in Alberta. It might have trouble finding good, qualified Liberal candidates to fill some of these vacancies, because there are not a whole lot of Liberals left in Alberta. There is no shortage of qualified people in Alberta to fill these vacancies.

As a result of the Jordan decision, a number of these crimes are pleaded down to bare minimums to advance the court docket.

We hear words from the minister like “efficiency”. Efficiency simply means that they are going to get these people before the judge, slap them on the wrist more quickly, and send them through that revolving door faster. The only thing this bill is going to do for thieves in central Alberta is make them dizzy from how fast the revolving door is going to go around as they go in and out of the justice system. This would be an absolute abomination for the law-abiding property owners in my constituency, should this bill come to pass. To me, it is absolutely mind-boggling.

I will get back to the rural crime task force. They want more provisions to be able to look after themselves to protect themselves and their property in rural areas. They want more serious consequences. They want more police on the roads able to do the work that needs to be done.

There are people who live 45 minutes to an hour away from the police. In fact, I have heard of instances when the police did not show up for three or four days after the actual crime to just catalogue and log what was actually stolen. This is how serious and how far behind the system actually is.

Rather than providing resources, more resources for police, more resources for our prosecutorial services, more resources for the bench, and more resources for our penal system, the government has its own agenda and is spending a lot of money on other things. This is money that is actually taken out Canadian taxpayers' pockets.

The primary ordinance of any government ought to be the safety and security of its law-abiding citizens. That does not appear to be the case with this piece of legislation. The people I represent would be very frustrated to know this.

I will get to a couple of the details. I think most of my constituents would be deeply offended to find out the direction the government is going on some of these things.

First is theft over $5,000. Right now there are basically two different categories of theft in the Criminal Code. If someone steals something with a net value or a deemed value or an instrumental value of over $5,000, that is currently an indictable offence. What that means is that the crown must go ahead and pursue that as a criminal matter, as an indictable offence, before the court, with a mandatory prison sentence of some sort involved, with a maximum penalty of up to 10 years.

Should Bill C-75 pass in its current form, that provision will now basically have the same type of penalties that theft under $5,000 has. Theft under $5,000 right now actually proceeds by way of summary conviction, or potentially as an indictable offence, or as a hybrid offence.

Basically, what the Liberal government is proposing is to treat theft over $5,000 the same as theft under $5,000. In fact, after the changes go through, there is going to be little to distinguish theft over $5,000 from theft under $5,000, which means that a judge could hand out the same penalty to someone who stole a car as to someone who shoplifted a pack of Hubba Bubba. That is where this is going. It is really unfortunate.

We want to give our judges a little discretion. I understand that, but why would we water down the legislation so much, to the point where they actually would not even have that discretion anymore. I would argue that instead of doing this kind of work, we should have provisions in the bill for theft over $20,000, if someone is going to start stealing expensive motor vehicles, or theft over $100,000, if someone has run a string of thefts and has stolen a welding truck, an RV, and a trailer, and so on. Why these things are not being taken any more seriously than shoplifting a package of gum is beyond me. We are heading absolutely in the wrong direction.

I did take a bit of offence. I know that not everyone who ends up in the criminal system has had an easy life, but the justice minister categorized the changes in the Criminal Code to take into consideration a lot of factors, and one of those factors is the result of previous victimization. Let us take a look at what these charges are.

First is participation in the activity of a terrorist group. This does not sound like someone who does not know what he or she is doing and is underprivileged or is having trouble on the street. Second is a prison breach. That does not sound like someone who is underprivileged. Third is municipal corruption or influencing municipal officials. I do not see the homeless people in my riding having a lot of influence on the mayor or the reeve or anyone to that effect. Fourth is influencing or negotiating appointments or dealings in offices. That does not sound like a crime of the underprivileged or of those who were previously victimized.

I could go through most of these: extortion by libel, advocating genocide, possession of property obtained by crime, prohibited insider trading. Yes, these are the crimes of the poor and unfortunate the Liberal justice minister characterized when she made her speech. These are well-organized crimes that are perpetrated by people who know darn well what they are doing, and they are doing it on purpose. This brings me to my point on organized crime.

Right now the current government has two bills in the House: Bill C-71, which proposes to crack down on law-abiding firearms owners and make their lives intensely more miserable; and Bill C-75, which would actually make life far easier for criminals. The hypocrisy and juxtaposition of these two pieces of legislation is absolutely astonishing.

For example, the Liberal public safety minister said that the government is using Bill C-71 to crack down on guns and gangs, yet the justice minister is proposing a bill that says that we are going to hybridize offences in the Criminal Code for participation in the activities of a criminal organization. If we are not living in freaking upside-down land, I do not know what is going on.

The Liberal government is going to penalize law-abiding firearms owners with Bill C-71. Meanwhile, it is going to change the Criminal Code and say that if members of a gang are using guns, we are going to proceed by way of hybridization, potentially a summary conviction offence and a mere fine, for being involved in that criminal organization. This makes absolutely no sense. It makes no sense to the law-abiding firearms community in my riding. It makes no sense to the law-abiding community in my riding.

The criminals and thieves who are operating in my riding are looking at today's legislative agenda and saying to themselves, “My goodness, the smorgasbord just got bigger and better. We are now going to have shopping lists for firearms, because the government is requiring business owners to keep those shopping lists available for us. We are going to be able to go to all the homes we want to and get the property we want.” They will get a slap on the wrist and a trip through the revolving door. Bada bing bada boom. They will thank the Liberals. We know who supports the Liberals. It is the criminals in this country. It is not the law-abiding citizens.

Rural CrimePrivate Members' Business

May 24th, 2018 / 6:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Martin Shields Conservative Bow River, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to stand tonight and talk about the issue of rural crime. I appreciate my colleague from Lakeland bringing forward Motion No. 167. This is an important issue, and we have already heard several of my colleagues speak to it tonight.

Rural MPs from Alberta started talking about this issue in the last couple of years as they heard about it from their constituents. We held many town hall meetings in our ridings over the last year. We visited with staff sergeants and their detachments. We visited with RCMP commanding officers for the province. We talked to a lot of people. It was not hard to get people to come to town halls to talk about rural crime.

My riding, Bow River, is about the size of New Brunswick. It has 60 large and small rural communities. These are not city people who expect the RCMP or the metropolitan police to show up quickly. These people do not expect to see the RCMP very quickly because of the distance. It is very hard to get to them.

There are two groups I am very concerned about: the rural residents and the fear they are living with, and the RCMP members and the professional job they do. RCMP officers know that it is hard to get to reported crimes because of the distance. They want to get there, but there are some issues that are really creating problems.

We are glad that RCMP members have sick leave, maternity leave, and paternity leave. These are rights they should have. However, there is a strong shortage of staff, and they cannot backfill these positions. One detachment has seven members, but it really has only four because the positions cannot be filled, so the detachment is left short. If a detachment that supposedly has seven members but really has only four provides 24-7 coverage and has many miles to cover, that leaves the officers very much at risk. It is not only the stress of the job and the long hours, but the risk they may face being out in places far removed from any backup or support. The RCMP is caught in a vicious cycle.

The province did respond, in a sense, to this growing concern by saying that it would hire 59 more RCMP officers for rural detachments, but the soonest it can possibly get those is in two years, if it gets them at all.

We really have a problem with our professional police service, a service we really appreciate. The RCMP has a long-standing history of service to our country, but barriers are being put up in front of them and the work they need to do to respond to crimes. Upholding the law in our constituencies has become very difficult for them.

Then we get to the justice system. When the RCMP officers go out to investigate crimes, the people are often long gone before the officers can get there. When they do catch them, they appear in court, receive bail hearings, and are gone. The joke among RCMP officers is that they need to watch their vehicles when individuals are released on bail because they will probably steal one to go home. They know it is a slap on the wrist. The RCMP officers are very frustrated when doing their jobs because they will probably catch the repeat offenders another time doing the same crime. It is very hard for the RCMP.

They coach people at town hall meetings to get the citizens on patrol, on active crime watch. They are asking people to go out and help them in the middle of the night. We are talking about seniors on their properties in rural communities. They want them to go out and try to secure their property in the evening, and that is a challenging task.

This leads me to the second thing I am going to talk about, the fear among the citizens. I heard from a mother with a three-year-old child. At three o'clock in the morning, she heard people in her yard, and before long they were banging on her door. She locked herself in a room and phoned the RCMP. There was no chance the RCMP would get there.

In a community, two nights ago, two people attempted to steal a truck, and the resident came out. He is now in critical condition in the hospital, as he was severely beaten by them. They were long gone before somebody discovered this person, who was severely beaten, and called the police. The distances make it very tough.

Living in fear is a severe problem for our people in rural areas. The RCMP cannot get there. As other people have mentioned, reporting crimes is really important, yet people are giving up on reporting crimes because the RCMP cannot get there. Sometimes it has been days later when the RCMP can get there to try to investigate what is occurring. The dissatisfaction that is growing among residents toward their police force makes no sense. The frustration that is occurring among the residents in rural areas because of fear is wrong. We need to be able to provide better service in our rural communities.

We need to fundamentally restructure how we look at the RCMP and its service. Because of the way it is structured, there need to be more officers. They need more support. They should not fear going out at two in the morning on a call 30 miles out from where they live or where their detachment is, because they will be out there on their own with no backup from the unit behind them. They should not fear for their jobs to be able to do that. There needs to be backup. We need to look at how the RCMP works in rural areas. There is a serious shortage, and it is cyclical in what it causes them.

Someone mentioned Bill C-75. This could make it worse, in the sense that it is a revolving door with lesser penalties and fines for stealing things over $5,000. These are crimes of opportunity. These people know that the police are not going to get there. The vehicles found in rural communities are often very expensive. These are farming communities. They have expensive four-wheel drive trucks. These are $50,000 or $60,000 vehicles, and people are out there stealing them. If they know that under the new legislation they would get a slap on the wrist and maybe a fine, that would really exacerbate the situation in rural areas. Bill C-75 may cause this to become a more severe problem. The RCMP will be more frustrated and less likely to solve crimes if people are only fined for this.

Rural crime is a severe issue. In town halls, I see the fear on people's faces, their anger and frustration about the country they live in and should be safe in. This is not right. They have beautiful homes and great properties.

I am glad that this bill is here. We can collect data and information so that Canadians can feel safe in their homes, no matter where they live. This is a really important piece to do.