Never again? Never say never again here, from the other side.
Madam Speaker, that was on Bill C-235, which Mr. Bagnell tabled in the House. We had a second reading vote on his private member's bill. Fifteen Conservatives voted with him. I was one of them, because I thought an assessment order for those with fetal alcohol syndrome should get them some type of special treatment in the courts and judges should be directed to look at that during sentencing. It was an assessment in that case that I thought was perfectly reasonable.
If we look at my voting record on other bills, members will realize that I am willing to look at bills as they come forward and judge them on the merits of their content, not the aspirations placed behind them. Judges do not look at the aspirational language we use in this place to describe bills.
I have heard members say this bill would help indigenous or Black Canadians get the type of treatment they deserve in the court system so they are not overly given harsh criminal sentences, but the words “race”, "racism" and "systemic racism" are not in this bill. Another member mentioned, aspirationally, that the bill would help to stop minorities from being overly sentenced harshly by the judicial system, but I do not see those words. The Liberals could have introduced an assessment order and a requirement for judges to consider that.
On that point, Liberal members have asked several times if we do not trust judges. Of course we trust judges. The government appoints them to sit on the bench and render decisions on behalf of Canadians. They are supposed to look at both sides, those of the offender and the victim, and determine what outcome would be fair and just for society while including an opportunity for rehabilitation and a punishment that would fit the crime, to ensure that victims also feel that justice has been served in their case.
The Liberals talk about judicial discretion. How do they feel about the discretion of the Attorney General of Canada or those of the provinces? I wonder how Jody Wilson-Raybould would feel right now when we are talking about the discretion of judges. It was the current government, on the opposite side, that got itself involved in a criminal proceeding for favouring a particular party, so how does it feel about attorney generals using their discretion in the pursuit of justice?
I think it is hypocritical of government members to be talking about judicial discretion and the ability of judges to determine a proper sentence. We do not talk about attorneys general who give direction to prosecutors. In this caucus, we have several prosecutors on our side who have actually gone through this and used these sections of the Criminal Code to sentence people.
Many of our comments probably echo the member for St. Albert—Edmonton's terrific verbal dissertation on the merits of the bill's contents. However, I thought it remarkable that one of the offences that is being rolled back in the bill is the production and manufacturing of schedule I drugs, including hard drugs such as cocaine, heroin, fentanyl and crystal meth.
I live in a suburban community that is made up entirely of single-family detached homes, mostly next to a hospital. Just a few years ago, a fentanyl lab was found in my own community in one of the homes closest to Deerfoot Trail. I think two million or three million pills were found, including pill presses. This has been a common story in Calgary. These pill press mills are being found in residential neighbourhoods. In the past six years, this sleepy, suburban community also had two murders committed in it. One of these, if I remember correctly, was connected to the drug trade. Again, this is happening in all of our communities across Canada. We see the daily numbers of opioid deaths, and I entirely agree that it is a crisis.
However, again, the way in which the bill is being framed does not match the contents of the bill. What I see in the bill is a kind of softening of the minimum we can set for people who commit crimes such as robbery with a firearm or kidnapping, which are things that most of my constituents think is absolutely wrong.
Before I get accused of not caring about those who wind up in the prison system, in my riding we have the historic Ogden Hotel, which has been there for almost a century. A CP is located right next to it, and it is one of Calgary's original hotels. This is where Pastor Delaney runs the Victory Foundation for the church: It helps men who are getting out of the prison system to get back on their feet, find jobs and get some training and education.
I have had coffee there with people out of the prison system who are trying to get their lives back on track. I have a beautiful painting in my house from a gentleman who was homeless. He wound up in the judicial system and was charged, but I call him an expert painter from Calgary. He made a beautiful painting of an elk being attacked by a cougar, and he was helped by the Victory Foundation. I have met and interacted with these men and tried to better understand what they go through. Many of them will tell us that they wronged someone and that they have to right the wrong at some point.
There are two sides to the debate we are having here. Where is the voice of the victims who want to see fairness in the judicial system? If we are going to talk about judicial discretion, we have to talk about attorneys general being able to direct prosecutors to actually pursue these cases as well. Also, we set the box within which judges are supposed to rule, and the box shows what the minimum is, what the maximum is and what is reasonable in between.
A member on our side mentioned that it is an expectation of Canadians that a crime committed in eastern Canada, for example in Montreal on the south shore in beautiful Brossard, in the B section where I lived for part of my life, would be treated the same way if it was committed in downtown Calgary. The same crime would be looked at by judges in the same way and would be given a similar type of sentence. We say that every case is different and every case has particular circumstances to it, but that is what we are asked to do here. I am not a lawyer by profession, so I am unburdened by a legal education and can just give a layman's interpretation of what the judicial system should look like. I consider that a bonus, but maybe some lawyers do not.
Before I forget, I have a Yiddish proverb for members to consider: “When you sweep the house, you find everything.” As I have gone through the bill, I have mentioned the fundamental aspects of the judicial system here. As I am sweeping across the bill, I look for those terms that have been mentioned by members aspirationally hoping that it would achieve the goals of not having offenders judged solely by immutable characteristics such as race, but only on the merits of their particular cases. That is a concept that I agree with, but it is not in the bill. There is no assessment order. The government could have taken an idea from our former colleague Larry Bagnell and applied it to the particular thing that they truly care about.
I cannot see how I can support this type of bill. This is the same thing as Bill C-22 in the last Parliament, and government members knew we would not support this type of legislation. They had an opportunity to fix it, but they chose not to take it. Between tabling Bill C-22 and the return of this Parliament, they lost the opportunity to find some type of consensus in the House on producing a bill to help Canadians and to help victims of serious crimes.