Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to Bill C-22.
When this bill was first introduced, I read the news release on it, heard the minister's comments and, like many Canadians, took the government at its word about what this bill would do. Unfortunately, when we actually saw the text of the bill, we saw that this was not about simple possession of drugs; that this was not about minor crimes, as the minister just remarked in his statement; and that it was not about minor offences.
I want to highlight the text of the bill and what it actually would do. I think most Canadians would be alarmed by the approach the government is taking.
First, I will talk about mandatory minimums and the elimination of mandatory prison time for what the government is saying are minor offences. What are these minor offences? They include robbery with a firearm; extortion with a firearm; weapons trafficking; importing or exporting knowing a firearm is unauthorized; discharging a firearm with intent; using a firearm in the commission of an offence; possession of a prohibited or restricted firearm with ammunition; possession of a weapon obtained by the commission of an offence; and possession for the purpose of weapons trafficking. What do all those mandatory prison sentences have in common? They predate the previous Conservative government. Most of them are one-year minimums that were brought in by Liberal governments. We did not hear the Liberal minister mention that in his press release, and it would have been good of him to do so.
I think Canadians would be surprised that the bill in fact would do away with minimum sentences on all those offences, and that was certainly not made clear by the government. In fact, the government's messaging was primarily framed as turning a page on Conservative justice policy. There are two things that are worth raising on that.
I am proud to support strong sentences and prison time for individuals who conduct drive-by shootings, robbery with a firearm or crimes like weapons trafficking. This is impacting Canadians from coast to coast. Whether people live in an urban centre or a rural area, they deserve to be safe from crime. In fact, I think most Canadians would agree with that, which is why the Liberals will not talk about what offences they are actually repealing mandatory prison time for. We just heard the Minister of Justice speak. He did not list the firearms offences, like I just did, that would have their punishments lowered under the bill.
Second, the former Conservative government certainly did bring in some mandatory prison sentences for violent offences like the ones I just listed. It is worth noting, though, that if we trace the mandatory prison sentences back, we can trace many of them to 1995 and beyond, under former Liberal governments. In fact, we can even trace the mandatory prison sentence for using a firearm in the commission of an offence back to former Primer Minister Trudeau in the 1970s. Many of the mandatory minimums being maintained by the Liberal government, being kept in the Criminal Code were implemented and strengthened by a former Conservative government.
This is all to highlight the fact that this is largely the Liberals leaning heavily on warped communications to make reforms to the Criminal Code to weaken penalties for crimes that most Canadians would say deserve mandatory prison time.
Now I will touch on the mandatory prison time being eliminated under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. The Liberals would have us believe this is just about simple possession of drugs. In fact, Bill C-22 tells us it is just the opposite.
Bill C-22 would eliminate mandatory prison time for trafficking or possession for the purpose of trafficking; importing and exporting or possession for the purpose of exporting; and production of a substance schedule I or II, for example heroin, cocaine, fentanyl and crystal meth. People would be forgiven if they were confused, because the federal government's news release does not mention that it will be eliminating mandatory prison time for drug traffickers. It does not mention that they will be eliminating mandatory prison time for those importing or exporting drugs. Nor does it mention that Bill C-22 would eliminate mandatory prison time for the production of drugs like heroin, cocaine, fentanyl and crystal meth.
I hypothesize that the government's news release does not mention any of this because it recognizes that Canadians would not support eliminating mandatory prison time for drug traffickers. To be clear, these are not people in simple possession of drugs. These are people who are preying each and every day on addicts, on people who need help. These are the individuals taking advantage of them in our communities. These are the people involved in criminal activities and are actively preying on those who struggle every day with addiction.
There is a component in the bill that codifies principles that police officers and prosecutors should follow when determining whether to lay charges, but the fact is that police officers already have the ability to use their discretion when determining to lay charges. Further, the director of public prosecutions previously issued a directive to prosecutors telling them to avoid prosecuting simple possession charges unless there are major public safety concerns. This change, in practice, will therefore have little impact.
The Conservatives believe that those struggling with addiction or mental health issues should get the help they need. Many Canadians struggling with addiction should have access to treatment rather than prison if their crime was non-violent. However, the bill before us would do absolutely nothing to address that.
I will now move on the to the conditional sentencing component of the bill.
Bill C-22 would make a number of offences eligible for conditional sentencing, which means a person would serve their sentence from the comfort of their own home. Again, the government's news release does not outline what those offences are. The minister referred to them as minor offences. Well, here are some examples of offences for which a conditional sentence would be available under Bill C-22: manslaughter, discharge of a firearm with intent, sexual assault with a firearm, robbery, breaking and entering a dwelling-house, breaking and entering a place other than a dwelling-house, assaulting a police officer causing bodily harm, sexual assault, abduction of a person under 14 and kidnapping. The government did not mention any of these specific offences in its news release. It completely brushed over this point and referred to them as minor offences. I think almost all parliamentarians and Canadians would agree that those are in fact serious offences and that people should not be serving a sentence from the comfort of their own home if they have just finished burning down one of ours.
The government has said that removing the section of the Criminal Code that prevents conditional sentences from being issued for the offences I just listed would allow for more effective rehabilitation and reintegration by enabling individuals to maintain employment or to continue caring for children or family members. Quite frankly, I do not think someone convicted of kidnapping, sexual assault, manslaughter or the many other offences I listed should be eligible for house arrest, and I think most Canadians agree on that point.
The Conservatives support reducing recidivism, but Bill C-22 is not the way to tackle it. In fact, my colleague, the member for Tobique—Mactaquac, has introduced Bill C-228, an act to establish a federal framework to reduce recidivism. This bill would set up a framework of measures to help reduce recidivism, reducing the number of people coming into continual contact with the criminal justice system. I hope members on all sides of the House will support it.
We have seen a trend from the government in its failure to respond or stand up for victims of crime. In November of last year, the federal ombudsman for victims of crime called on the government to proceed with the in-depth parliamentary review of the Canadian victims bill of rights, as required under the legislation, so that further means to protect victims of crime could be identified. This has yet to happen.
This is an opportunity to strengthen the act and ensure that supports are made available for victims. The federal ombudsman for victims of crime said that based on the data available to her, it appeared the objectives of the act established in 2015 have not been met. Her office released a series of recommendations in a progress report that should be reviewed more fully in the parliamentary review that the government should proceed with quickly to ensure that victims and their families receive the support they deserve.
A few days after the report from the federal ombudsman was released, a decision by the Quebec Court of Appeal struck down a section of the Criminal Code allowing for consecutive life sentences. This was the case of a man who murdered six people in a Quebec City mosque in 2017—