An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act

Sponsor

David Lametti  Liberal

Status

Second reading (House), as of April 13, 2021

Subscribe to a feed (what's a feed?) of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-22.

Summary

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

This enactment amends the Criminal Code and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to, among other things, repeal certain mandatory minimum penalties, allow for a greater use of conditional sentences and establish diversion measures for simple drug possession offences.

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.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

April 13th, 2021 / 10:30 a.m.
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Scarborough—Rouge Park Ontario

Liberal

Gary Anandasangaree LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with my good friend, the member for Beaches—East York.

I am speaking to members from the traditional lands of the Mississaugas of the Credit in Scarborough—Rouge Park. I want to, first and foremost, thank the Minister of Justice and his team for their hard work in bringing this bill together. I will be speaking in support of Bill C-22. There are three basic elements to it. First, it repeals mandatory minimum penalties of imprisonment for 14 such offences. Second, it allows for conditional sentence orders to be expanded and, third, it requires police and prosecutors to consider all other measures for simple possession of drugs, such as diversion and addiction treatment programs for those who may be charged.

I have worked extensively within the criminal justice system as a youth worker. I used to run a youth organization here in Scarborough called the Canadian Tamil Youth Development Centre. During my tenure there, I met with dozens of young people who had been charged both criminally and under the YCJA. My experience led me to believe that the criminal justice system has a profound impact, particularly on racialized youth, and in the case of Scarborough, particularly Black youth.

The experience goes beyond my work at the Canadian Tamil Youth Development Centre. It goes into my work as a lawyer when I started practising, as well as into when we developed the national anti-racism strategy in 2019. As I went across the country, community after community spoke to the disproportionate impact of the criminal justice system on young people, particularly Black, indigenous and racialized youth. I believe Bill C-22 addresses, in part, some of the concerns that stem from the imposition of mandatory minimum sentences, particularly since 2006 when it was brought forward by the previous Conservative government.

My experience with young people leads me to believe that they are often caught in a moment when they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. They may have been with the wrong set of friends or they may have just acted stupidly. This gets them into the criminal justice system. It is an on-ramp that eventually leads to greater charges, in part because they are also being surveilled by several police services.

I want to highlight the recent case of someone I know quite well now. His name is Rohan George. He was admitted to the bar of the Law Society of Ontario just last year. He served eight years for manslaughter. He talks about his life experiences as a young person who went to St. Mother Teresa school in my riding of Scarborough—Rouge Park.

It started when he was about 14 with a stolen bottle of alcohol and a failure to attend court. This eventually escalated into something much more serious. This speaks to the failure of the criminal justice system to ensure that there are adequate supports and off-ramps for these young people. This young man served his time. He served eight years, went to law school and did thousands of hours of community service. I know him because he was working at an organization called the South Asian Autism Awareness Centre. I never knew that he had a criminal conviction and he was finishing his time.

I want to quote a line from the Law Society panel. It said, “The concept of rehabilitation is based on the capacity in human nature for someone to recognize their mistakes, to make amends, to correct the course of their lives, and to become productive and positive members of their community.” I believe that young people, particularly those from racialized communities who have been charged, are often not given the support that they need to get out of the criminal justice system.

As a member of Parliament, I have seen many cases that have come to our office where there may have been criminality that has escalated to removal from Canada because of immigration status. I believe the supports were not there when young people were around and getting into trouble for them to get off on these off-ramps.

The work I did, particularly with young Tamil men in Scarborough, has proven to me the need for community intervention and investments into the community. At that time, the work we did stemmed from the national crime prevention strategy funding of $50,000. We were able to help hundreds of young people avoid the criminal justice system. Those who did enter into it were supported to get out, often through education.

Since being an MP, I had the chance to visit institutions such as Millhaven and Beaver Creek. One does not have to spend too much time there before one realizes there is a gross misrepresentation within these institutions. It is partly because when one goes in, the officers, those who help people enter the facility, are primarily white, but once one goes into the facility it is racialized Black and indigenous people who occupy the cells. Once one talks to people, and I think as MPs we have the prerogative to speak to these individuals, one soon finds out there is an incredible story, which is the failure of the system, when one digs deeper into each and every one of those cases.

In 2019, I had the opportunity to welcome the Minister of Justice to Scarborough—Rouge Park. There are many organizations in Scarborough as well as around the GTA that do a great amount of work supporting youth. I want to recognize their work. Fernie Youth Services is an organization that provides an off-ramp right here in Scarborough—Rouge Park, as well as the Canadian Association of Black Lawyers, which has been really vocal in its opposition to the impacts of mandatory minimum sentences, particularly on Black youth. TAIBU Community Health Centre, the Zero Gun Violence Movement, the Urban Rez Solutions, Urban Alliance on Race Relations are some of the organizations that were able to meet with the Minister of Justice and outline the disproportionate effects mandatory minimums and other measures have on young people within our community.

The numbers speak for themselves and I want to give members some highlights.

Between 2007 and 2008, 39% of all Black offenders and 20% of all indigenous offenders were admitted into federal custody for MMP offences. That is an astonishing number. When we look at the proportion of indigenous offenders admitted with an offence punishable by an MMP, it has increased from 14% in 2007-08 to 26%. It has essentially doubled in the decade from 2007 to 2017. Of the offenders convicted of a Controlled Drugs and Substances Act section 6 offence, 42% were Black. The proportion of Black offenders increased from 33% in 2007-08 to 43% in 2016-17.

In 1999-2000, indigenous people represented 2% of the Canadian adult population, but accounted for 17% of admissions to provincial and federal sentenced custody. In 2020, despite this population growing to 5% of the overall adult population, 30% of male inmates and 42% of female inmates were indigenous.

The numbers are quite clear and show that there is a need for this to be addressed. This is systemic racism that needs to be addressed. I believe—

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

April 13th, 2021 / 10:40 a.m.
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NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Madam Speaker, I appreciate my hon. colleague's speech, but I am going to call the Liberals out on Bill C-22.

There are absolutely some helpful measures, and I appreciate that we are tackling some important reforms to the justice system, but let me be very clear, a declaration of principles is not a substitute for decriminalization. Warnings and referrals are not a substitute for decriminalization. The problem with giving police officers this kind of power is that their discretion varies, depending on what province and what city they are in.

Could the hon. member tell us why, despite all of the evidence from so many organizations, including the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, the Liberals are not being bold with this reform to our justice system and getting rid of section 4 in our Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, making it fully decriminalized?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

April 13th, 2021 / 10:45 a.m.
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Liberal

Nathaniel Erskine-Smith Liberal Beaches—East York, ON

Madam Speaker, I am in support of Bill C-22. Bill C-22, for those interested in the subject, comes in three parts. It would address mandatory minimum sentences in a serious way; it would restore judicial discretion as it relates to conditional sentencing and an emphasis on restorative justice; and the third piece is an emphasis on treating drug use as a health issue, and I will have more to say about that in a bit.

I want to start by focusing on mandatory minimum sentences with a simple premise that is overwhelmingly supported by the evidence, which is that mandatory minimum sentences do not work. They are ineffective; they do not deter crime. I am the member of Parliament for Beaches—East York, and we were deeply impacted by the Danforth shooting a few years ago. If mandatory minimum sentences could prevent another Danforth shooting from happening, I would support them, but they would not, and instead they disproportionately and negatively impact racialized Canadians. We see the numbers. We see, of Black Canadians, who represent 3% of the population, 9% are imprisoned. We see, of indigenous people, who represent 5% of the population, 30% are imprisoned. There are obviously instances where crimes are so abhorrent that retribution demands a lifetime in prison, and that obviously accords with our sense of justice, but we have seen cases before our courts, and there are obviously any number of hypotheticals that lawyers will devise, where mandatory minimum sentences do not fit the crime and judicial discretion is important. We have seen courts render these mandatory minimums unconstitutional because of their unfairness. They are not only ineffective, but unfair.

It is the same with conditional sentencing, that notion of effectiveness but also fairness. Punishments and remedies need to take into account context. There are reasons of fairness, and I mentioned reasons of fairness as it relates to racial justice, but also I have already heard a question from a Conservative colleague emphasizing public safety, so let us talk about public safety. Unless offenders are sentenced to life or something close to it, they will, as a simple fact, be released into our community. If we do not focus on restorative justice, rehabilitation and reintegration, we put our communities at greater risk. The evidence is there. It is as simple as that. If we care about public safety first and foremost, we ought to care about restorative justice.

I want to move to, for the remainder of my comments, the third part of Bill C-22, which is the reform, in a more sensible way, of our drug policy laws. This is roundly accepted by anyone who has studied the issue, but the so-called “war on drugs” is an abject failure. I will read from the Global Commission on Drug Policy. They write, “the evidence overwhelmingly demonstrates that repressive strategies will not solve the drug problem, and that the war on drugs has not, and cannot, be won.” The long-term answer is regulation, that all drugs should be, in many cases, strictly regulated according to their respective harms. Caffeine is different from morphine and they should be regulated, of course, differently. Again, this is the view of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, a commission made up of experts and former world leaders who have been deeply impacted by the failings of the war on drugs. They write:

Regulation and management of risky products and behaviors is a key function of government authorities across the world. It is the norm in almost all areas of policy and law – except drug policy. ... In the field of public health, when compared with policy responses to other risky behaviors – such as dangerous sports, unhealthy diets or unsafe sex – it is punitive drug prohibitions that are the “radical” policy response, not regulation. Drugs should be regulated not because they are safe, but precisely because they are risky.

We are not going to get there tomorrow, so on the road to that goal, let us first take stock of where we are and where we will go from here, realistically. In taking stock, we can look over the last five or six years. We have as a government regulated cannabis, a real model for the world. We have expanded harm reduction options, including safe consumption sites across this country to save lives. We are in the midst of an opioid crisis, and we know that the benefits of safe consumption sites have been proven and that they save lives. We have also increased money for treatment options for the provinces.

We have implemented safer supply pilot initiatives, including here in the east end. South Riverdale just received funding to renew its safe supply pilot for another two years. Again, this will save lives.

We have established new guidelines for prosecutors in relation to the simple possession of drugs and the prosecution of simple possession of drugs. In practice, for those interested in the numbers, from 2014 to 2018 we saw drug possession prosecutions cut in half, from 13,678 to 6,374. Now, we unquestionably need to build on that progress, and that brings me to the third part of Bill C-22, which is nearly a cut-and-paste of a private member's bill I introduced in February of last year.

To go even further back to the fall of 2019, in the midst of an election I was at Hope United Church here in the east end of Toronto and I was asked this question: If you had the opportunity to introduce a private member's bill, what is the first private member's bill would I introduce? I very quickly said that I had had a bill in the last Parliament to reform our drug policy laws and to treat drug use as a health issue, and I would revisit that issue. Early in 2020, I introduced two bills in this Parliament to that end, and I never expected that one of those bills would be picked up so quickly as a government bill in an almost identical fashion.

Now, the bill is not perfect, and I said in the course of my speech on my private member's bill that I would like to see full decriminalization. I do not think that there should be any penalty. There should be no intervention other than a positive, voluntary health intervention for people who use drugs. These are the people we want to help, not the people we want to punish. However, I also recognize the reality of the ability to move a private member's bill forward, and I want to make difference in the law.

The elements in Bill C-22 as they relate to drug policy are not perfect either, but they unquestionably will make a significant difference. The bill would make it virtually impossible for a prosecution of simple possession to proceed successfully. It would not give discretion to police, as they have discretion already, and it would not give discretion to prosecutors, as they have discretion already, but it would significantly fetter their discretion in accordance with evidence-based principles, which are simply worth reading from the bill. These principles are:

(a) problematic substance use should be addressed primarily as a health and social issue;

(b) interventions should be founded on evidence-based best practices and should aim to protect the health, dignity and human rights of individuals who use drugs and to reduce harm to those individuals, their families and their communities;

(c) criminal sanctions imposed in respect of the possession of drugs for personal use can increase the stigma associated with drug use and are not consistent with established public health evidence;

(d) interventions should address the root causes of problematic substance use...; and

(e) judicial resources are more appropriately used in relation to offences that pose a risk to public safety.

Now, there are real challenges to police and prosecutorial discretion, but the proposed system, if implemented well, is not so far away from the Portugal model that we hear many advocates of decriminalization call for. In this model, police remain first responders in many cases, and dissuasion panels have significant discretion to mete out different remedies, including some that are quite punitive.

I have spoken with Bryan Larkin, chief of police for the Waterloo area, and he has helped to lead efforts. I want to credit the chiefs of police for really pushing for decriminalization and a more sensible drug policy. I can tell members that with prosecutors and chiefs of police on board, we now unquestionably need resources from the government to expand treatment options and health services for the provinces.

There is a real opportunity with Bill C-22 to make a meaningful difference and to effectively end the war on drugs. My preference would be to simply delete section 4 of the CDSA, which is the preference of the Global Commission on Drug Policy as well.

It is important to remember that of the 250 million people around the world who use drugs, 10% are problematic cases. Therefore, the idea of throwing the book at people and that people who use drugs ought to be criminalized is significantly divorced from the evidence. We need to replace the criminalization and punishment of people who use drugs with the offer of health and treatment services.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

April 13th, 2021 / 11 a.m.
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Conservative

Shannon Stubbs Conservative Lakeland, AB

Madam Speaker, I will split my time with the member for Battle River—Crowfoot.

Conservatives are the party of law and order that ardently stands with victims of crime and their loved ones, and that applies common sense and outcomes-based principles to protect innocent Canadians from violent criminals who would harm others. Conservatives also take a practical approach and acknowledge that, of course, many offenders will be released back into society. There is a real need to prepare those offenders for release so they do not fall back into a life of crime, as seen in the good work of the member for Tobique—Mactaquac in his Bill C-228, which aims to set a federal framework to reduce recidivism.

However, Canadians also do not want the justice system to be a constantly revolving door. Common sense must prevail for the common good. Canadians, victims of crime and their families deserve to live freely without fear in Canadian society. When violent criminals seek to take that away or revictimize them, the government has a role in ensuring the laws and systems in place are designed to prevent it. The only thing worse than a government that fails in this duty is a government that actually promotes conditions that will ultimately lead to, or frankly guarantee, that violent criminals will strike again.

Bill C-22 gives great consideration to the relief of criminals and offenders, but it is missing any substantive policy or action to care for, protect, or prevent victims of violent crime in Canada. In fact, Bill C-22 would reduce the penalties for many violent crimes, some of which disproportionately affect the most vulnerable in Canada.

The first thing Bill C-22 does is build on the Liberals' “guns for gangs only” bill, Bill C-21, which targets law-abiding licensed firearms owners, retailers and even hobbyists who play airsoft and paintball. What is missing from Bill C-21 is a strategy to deal with the root cause of shooting deaths in Canada cities, criminal gangs with illegally smuggled guns.

In fact, Bill C-21 does nothing to protect public safety or victims from violent gun crime and criminal gangs. It lays a heavy hand on law-abiding Canadians who already follow the rules, but takes a hands-off approach to the very criminals and gangs who should obviously be the targets of public safety policy.

Bill C-22 takes the hands-off approach even further. It reduces jail time for violent firearms offences and will not stop the flow of illegal firearms into criminal gangs in Canada. In Bill C-22, the Liberals are telling Canadians these offences are no big deal by reducing penalties for: weapons trafficking, possession for the purpose of weapons trafficking, importing or exporting a firearm knowing it is unauthorized, possession of a firearm knowing its possession is unauthorized, possession of a prohibited or restricted firearm with ammunition, possession of a weapon obtained by commission of an offence using firearms in the commission of offences, robbery with a firearm and extortion with a firearm. We should all think about how each of these offences ties into actual violent crime and deaths in Canada.

That is not all. Bill C-22 would also reduce penalties for discharging firearms where it is unsafe to do so, say, for example, in the streets of Toronto, and for discharging firearms with intent, such as in a drive-by shooting, like the one in Montreal two months ago that tragically and horribly killed 15-year-old Meriem Boundaoui.

In fact, Montreal police inspector David Bertrand says his city had a 10% rise in gun crimes between 2019 and 2020, despite the Liberal firearm ban at the time. He says that this is due to the “trivialization” of gun use by criminals and that criminals are “using more guns when committing infractions”.

Bill C-22 plays right into the wrong hands. If the Liberals listened to experts, they would know not to trivialize crimes for which consequences need to be strengthened in order to keep Canadians safe from criminals with guns.

It seems Conservatives are the only ones listening to experts on gun crimes, but we cannot take all the credit for tough sentences for these crimes. Most of the above examples are long-standing and were introduced under previous Liberal governments, so sentences for using firearms in the commission—

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

April 13th, 2021 / 11:05 a.m.
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Conservative

Shannon Stubbs Conservative Lakeland, AB

Madam Speaker, Bill C-22 would reduce penalties for all those crimes with firearms, except the member gave me a perfect segue. With Bill C-22, the Liberals would also soften consequences for other violent crimes, like prison breaches, criminal harassment, motor vehicle theft, theft over $5,000, breaking and entering a place other than a dwelling house, being unlawfully in a dwelling house, arson for a fraudulent purpose, causing bodily harm by criminal negligence, assault causing bodily harm or with a weapon, assaulting a peace officer causing bodily harm or with a weapon.

To summarize, under Bill C-22, someone could break out of prison, steal a car to escape, break into several businesses, steal massive amounts of goods and cash, break into a home, assault the occupants with a weapon and then attack a police officer with a weapon. Apparently, according to the Liberal government, that is all worthy of a slap on the wrist and definitely no baseline consequence set by elected representatives.

In Canada, during the first six months of last year, there were 17,602 opioid deaths. That is 24 people per day, and a 54% increase over the same period of the previous year. Opioid deaths jumped nearly 60% last year in Ontario. In Alberta, 2020 was the deadliest year on record for overdoses.

Dr. Jennifer Jackson, an associate professor at the U of C's nursing program, says, “From the data we have available, more people are dying in Alberta from opioids than they are from COVID.”

As the opioid and overdose crisis grows, Canadians will be concerned to know that Bill C-22 would reduce consequences for drug trafficking; possession for the purpose of trafficking; importing, exporting or producing hard drugs such as heroin, cocaine and crystal meth, with increasingly deadly fentanyl.

The Liberals talk about how this would help those suffering with addiction, but the reality is that the police already have the tools and discretion to take alternative approaches with addicts other than only criminal charges and there are no mandatory minimum sentences for simple possession.

The truth is that the Liberals are not helping the vulnerable or acting with compassion in this measure in Bill C-22. Instead, they are enabling and enlightening the consequences for the very criminals who prey on people struggling with addictions during an unprecedented national overdose crisis.

One of the most galling aspects of Bill C-22 would be creating situations for offenders to revictimize by allowing those who commit violent crimes against women to return home instead of facing jail time. The sentences for these heinous criminal acts could be completed in the very places they occurred, next to the very people they victimized.

Incredibly, in Bill C-22, the Liberals aim to allow house arrests for kidnapping, abduction of a person under 14, sexual assault and human trafficking. The Liberal Bill C-22 says that criminals who kidnap, rape and enslave or trade human beings for sex should be at home in their own beds in our neighbourhoods instead of behind bars. It has not even been two full months since this House designated February 22 as National Human Trafficking Day.

StatsCan says that about 4.7 million Canadian women, 30% of all women in Canada, 15 years of age and older, have been victims of sexual assault at least once and 55% of women who identify as being in an indigenous group have experienced violence since the age of 15. The justice department says that in 86% of sexual assaults, the victim knows the accused; 41% were assaulted by an acquaintance; 28% by a family member; 10% by a friend; and 20% were victimized by a stranger. It is unjust and unconscionable that the government would enable convicted abusers to be sent to the places where they are most likely to have easy access to 86% of their victims, and even living under the same roof.

Human trafficking in Canada must end. There is not a single MP who disagrees. It is also true that human trafficking victims should not be at risk of being exposed to further heinous acts by the action of the government. Human trafficking victims and witnesses are often reluctant to come forward due to feelings of shame and mistrust of authorities. Certainly, Bill C-22 would do nothing to instill confidence in the system for victims or their loved ones.

StatsCan says that 1,400 human trafficking victims were reported by Canadian police over a 10-year period. Half involved other offences related to sexual services, physical assaults, sexual assaults or other sexual offences where Bill C-22 would reduce penalties. It is a fact that 97% of human trafficking victims are women and girls, half between the ages of 18 and 24, a third of them minors below the age of 18.

Several hundred kids in Canada are victims of this unimaginable evil and 92% of the victims know their abusers. Therefore, where do children go to escape when their abusers are put right back in the same place they found them? Violent crime victims already do not necessarily get notified when their abusers re-enter neighbourhoods. Bill C-22 would make it incumbent on the victims to uproot their lives to protect their personal safety. It says to victims that through some fault of their own, the burden now rests with them. One of the hallmarks of abusers is a shifting of responsibility and blame to victims, something that Bill C-22 does repeatedly.

Twice this year on February 18 and March 19, in written statements, the public safety minister said:

We are working together to build a safer and more resilient Canada, where all people are protected from human trafficking and its harms.

His department says that there were over 107,000 victims of police reported intimate partner violence in Canada in 2019; 80% were women.

How can the minister say that he is protecting Canadians from human trafficking and days later bring in a bill that would reduce the penalties for it and many of the other crimes abusers inflict on their victims? It is heartbreaking and it is infuriating.

On International Women's Day, the Prime Minister talked about reaffirming gender equality so all women and girls could contribute to their full potential and be in a better, safe and more inclusive world. However, Kelly Franklin, the founder of Ontario-based Courage for Freedom says that predators are hiding in plain sight and that victims are younger and younger. She says that every 30 seconds another person becomes a victim of human trafficking.

The lives of women and girls are being stolen away more and more, but the Liberal plan is to go softer and easier on criminals that specifically target them.

Let us all vote against Bill C-22, because it is the right thing to do.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

April 13th, 2021 / 11:10 a.m.
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Outremont Québec

Liberal

Rachel Bendayan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Small Business

Madam Speaker, my colleague's speech touched mostly on gun control. I would argue that taking assault rifles off our streets will absolutely help to reduce gun violence.

However, on the subject of Bill C-22, it is important to note that the Conservatives put forward legislation for mandatory minimums and we did not see a reduction in the amount of violence in Canada.

By eliminating mandatory minimums, this bill proposes to put the power in the hands of our judicial system and our judges to determine the best sentence possible in the circumstances. We know that mandatory minimums disproportionately affect indigenous and Black offenders, and they do not work.

What is the member's position on mandatory minimums?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

April 13th, 2021 / 11:15 a.m.
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Conservative

Shannon Stubbs Conservative Lakeland, AB

Madam Speaker, I am not sure what legislation the members who are raising this issue are reading. Frankly, I do not know if they are actually examining the fact that Bill C-22 would reduce mandatory prison times, eliminate mandatory prison times for these firearms offences, robbery with a firearm, extortion with a firearm, weapons trafficking, importing or exporting knowing it is unauthorized, discharging a firearm with intent, using a firearm in commission of offences, possession of firearms knowing its possession is unauthorized, possession of a prohibited restricted firearms with ammunition, possession of a weapon obtained by commission of offence, possession for purpose of weapons trafficking, discharging a firearm with recklessness. Members who do not recognize that these are in the legislation and do not want to talk about them are not applying the scrutiny and due diligence to the bill as they ought to.

The reason the front half of my speech focused on that is because that is what Bill C-22 would do. I also focused on all the other violent crimes for which the consequences would be lightened and softened by Bill C-22. That is also what the bill would do. Elected representatives—

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

April 13th, 2021 / 11:15 a.m.
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Conservative

Shannon Stubbs Conservative Lakeland, AB

Madam Speaker, I do not think I have a single constituent in Lakeland who actually thinks that prison breach, criminal harassment, sexual assault, kidnapping, trafficking persons for material benefit, abduction of a person under 14, motor vehicle theft, theft over $5,000, breaking and entering a place, being unlawfully in a dwelling house, arson for fraudulent purposes, causing bodily harm by criminal negligence, assault causing bodily harm or with a weapon and assaulting a peace officer causing bodily harm or with a weapon are in any way, shape or form minor offences, as the member just said.

I think Canadians expect the government to stand up for the rule of law, put victims first, stand up for their rights, target violent criminals, sexual offenders and criminal gains, ensure the Criminal Code protects Canadians and changes and evolves as public safety and crime trends shift. As well, as MPs, also relative to the question asked to me previously, we must be willing to reflect the values of the people we represent. That is what I am doing here.

My constituents, and I believe all Canadians, consider these crimes to be extremely serious. They want the system to combat them. By reducing mandatory sentences for serious crimes, Bill C-22 says that elected representatives do not need establish any bottom lines, do not have to set any automatic consequences. It would turn the government's back on those who need its support and need to know right now more than ever that someone has their backs.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

April 13th, 2021 / 11:20 a.m.
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Conservative

Damien Kurek Conservative Battle River—Crowfoot, AB

Madam Speaker, it is an honour to stand once again in this House and participate in an important debate. I plan to address two major themes in my speech. The first has to do with the fact that it seems the members opposite are simply not aware of what is contained in this bill. This bill actually reduces some of the penalties for serious firearms offences. I will get into the specifics of that here in a moment. The second is the larger topic of conversation surrounding being soft on crime and the very troubling trends that we see, not only with this bill, but with some of the larger context of how the government is failing victims.

First, on firearms, I find it absolutely tragic that we are debating firearms in this place in a way that completely ignores the facts. The members opposite will talk about how it is important to ban assault rifles and these military-style weapons, when very few members opposite understand the reality of what they are talking about. The reality is truly a trifecta of misinformation and political rhetoric torqued to the highest extent possible to appeal to a narrow band of political interests that is simply not based on reality.

I have a few examples. The Conservative member for Markham—Unionville brought forward Bill C-238, a bill that was meant to bring many people together to combat a real issue, and that is violent gun crime. However, the Liberals voted against it. How tragic is it that the Liberals, who claim to be targeting law-abiding firearms owners, would absolutely dismiss an attempt by parliamentarians to address some of those issues? It is absolutely shameful.

Second, we see the context of aspects of this debate with last year's order in council banning 1,500 firearms. It was absurd logic. In fact, when I participated in the member of Parliament's briefing for that OIC, the officials who were brought in did not even understand the very basis of the firearms they said they were banning. How absurd is it that we have such a disconnect between the consequences of what I would suggest is a massive overreach of the executive branch, targeting something, and then they torque it up with their rhetoric about how they are somehow taking action on crime? It is shameful, the record of the government.

The members opposite suggest that this somehow does not have relevance to the debate today, which is absurd and again more of their torqued political rhetoric, at a time when they seem to be bent on calling an election in the midst of a pandemic. I would note, as a bit of an aside, that there is a Supreme Court challenge in Newfoundland that has been launched today by an opposition party because of an election there that many would suggest, and certainly this lawsuit suggests, does not have the confidence of the people. It was a Liberal majority, yet the Prime Minister and the government seem bent on stealing power at any cost.

The third aspect of this bill is that it takes the serious criminal offences. Specifically, as I mentioned in the first part of my speech, I want to talk about the firearms side of things. The fact is that they are lessening penalties on serious firearms offences.

The Liberals introduced Bill C-21, literally banning toy guns. They said that was fake news, yet the reality, as we have learned, is that bad legislation creates bad outcomes and does not do what they say they are trying to accomplish. In the same week, they introduced Bill C-22, only a few days later. On Tuesday, they introduced a bill to punish law-abiding Canadians for simply living their lives, in many cases using something that is a tool in many parts of our country.

I come from a rural constituency, where a firearm is a tool like many others. It can be used as a weapon, but so can a baseball bat, a kitchen knife or a van, yet that torqued-up rhetoric based on a blind ideology has labelled so many thousands or millions of Canadians to be somehow criminals.

The same week, only a couple of days later, on a Thursday, the Liberals introduced Bill C-22, eliminating penalties for serious firearms offences. It is absurd that this is what they think they can get away with. Certainly, my constituents see through that absurdity. I hear from Canadians across the country, including the constituents of quite a few members opposite, who are saying they are starting to see through the facade, the political spin that the government is trying to bring on this and how absolutely shameful it is in that regard.

That brings me to the second part of my speech, which addresses some of the other aspects of this bill and the very troubling trend that I would suggest it is setting.

Bill C-22 eliminates a number of those firearms offences and the mandatory prison times, such as robbery with a firearm, discharging a firearm with intent to harm, and weapons trafficking. Those are the problems, not the law-abiding firearms owners.

The Liberals are also proposing in this bill that criminals could serve house arrest rather than jail time for a number of offences, including sexual assault, in the midst of the conversation around sexual assault in the military. I listened to the testimony on the Bastarache report regarding sexual assault in the RCMP and the revelation of how terribly pervasive that is within our society, yet the Liberals, who talk tough, with their woke feminist Prime Minister, are truly being soft and punishing victims at a time when victims deserve an advocate.

There is also trafficking in persons for material benefit and kidnapping. At a time when we are trying to bring awareness to human trafficking, the fact that the Liberals are punishing victims is absolutely absurd and shameful.

There is a series of other offences where the sentences are being reduced. The trends that are being set are very troubling, such as the soft-on-crime approach and ignoring victims. Meanwhile, we have seen, especially in my large constituency in rural east-central Alberta, a massive growth in rural crime and serious offences that have really affected the way of life of my constituents, the ability of Canadians to feel safe in their homes, and so many aspects of the way in which we live.

The Liberals are going to suggest that somehow we, the evil Conservatives, want to punish people for not breaking the law, which is just Liberal spin. It is unfortunate that it has devolved to the point it has, because it is taking away from the seriousness of this debate. It is quite simple. Conservatives are focused on ensuring that Canada's drug laws target individuals who prey on Canadians struggling with addictions through the trafficking and sale of drugs to the victims of what is an opioid pandemic, which is what those drug dealers and gangs deserve. The member for Lakeland, who spoke prior to me, articulated very well the challenges we face regarding drug use in this country. This is not about punishing a victim; it is about ensuring that those who are responsible for those abuses, the gangs, the drug dealers and whatnot, are punished.

The Conservatives have talked about mental health. We believe there needs to be a clear plan on ensuring there is restorative justice and a plan that addresses and helps victims. That is the clear difference here. We have the hug-a-thug mentality from the Liberals on the other side, and we have the Conservatives, who want to stand up for victims. Bill C-22 is incredibly troubling in the context of the bigger picture and the blatant hypocrisy that exists on the firearms debate.

I would conclude by saying that I cannot in good conscience support this. My constituents have overwhelmingly told me that this is a bad bill. I certainly will not be supporting it going forward.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

April 13th, 2021 / 11:35 a.m.
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Liberal

Kody Blois Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time this morning with my hon. colleague from Humber River—Black Creek.

This is the first time that I have had the chance to speak in the House since the passing of Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh and the royal consort. I want to go on record to recognize his significant achievements to public life and the Commonwealth. I know other parliamentarians have spoken to this, but I want to add my voice.

We are here today to talk about Bill C-22, which is about repealing mandatory minimum sentences that had been established under the previous Harper government. For Canadians who are listening in today on this debate for the first time and so they can understand the intent of the legislation, essentially there are three elements underpinning what this legislation is about. It is about repealing mandatory minimum penalties for certain offences, it is about allowing the judiciary to use greater discretion in terms of conditional sentence orders and it would also require police and prosecutors to examine whether it is appropriate to treat simple drug possession as more of a health issue as opposed to a justice issue.

I am the member of Parliament for Kings—Hants, in which there are three indigenous communities. I often say—

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

April 13th, 2021 / 11:50 a.m.
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Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal Humber River—Black Creek, ON

Madam Speaker, as a government, we are taking steps to try to address systemic racism that is pervasive in our institutions and Bill C-22 is a step forward in the right direction, especially for my riding of Humber River—Black Creek. With this legislation, we are advancing a policy that is truly about keeping communities safe.

We have seen throughout history how certain criminal justice policies have unfairly targeted indigenous peoples, people of colour and marginalized Canadians. Too often these policies were poorly handled and only reinforced the systemic racism, which our government has committed to eliminating in Canada. Let me clear: A justice system that jails too many indigenous peoples, Black people and marginalized Canadians is not effective, does not keep us safe and therefore must be changed.

In my riding of Humber River—Black Creek, I have seen far too many lives derailed by policies that target racialized communities. Too many careers have been destroyed because of a singular bad decision. We are a country that believes in rehabilitation and second chances, but our criminal justice policies have not followed this lofty ideal. That is why I am very proud to speak in the House today in support of Bill C-22 and the fact that the government has brought it forward.

With Bill C-22, we are turning the page on the failed policies of the Harper Conservatives, policies that did not protect Canadians, but, rather, targeted them. The measures in the bill, in conjunction with our numerous other reforms across government, are a critical step forward as we work to eliminate the plague of systemic racism and ensure that our justice system is as effective as it can be, one that is equal and fair to all Canadians. This means removing mandatory minimum penalties that unfairly target low-risk and first-time offenders, which evidence shows us only leads to the over-incarceration of racialized and marginalized groups and does nothing to decrease recidivism.

We want to expand the availability of conditional sentencing orders for those who do not pose a risk to public safety. The availability of conditional sentences means that judges will have the flexibility to determine whether offenders pose a risk to the public and, if so, will allow the offenders to serve their sentences in their communities under strict conditions. Rather than punishing these people for a bad decision, we would instead give them access to treatment programs and other supportive services. The evidence has shown us that our current system only serves to derail the lives of low-risk offenders and the dissolution of the family unit, which is so important, and negatively impacts the families they leave behind.

If we want to promote the rehabilitative nature of our justice system, we must practice what we preach. Giving low-risk offenders access to treatment and support, keeping their families together and keeping them integrated in their communities are proven methods of reducing recidivism. To answer the concerns of the opposition, these opportunities will not be available to everyone.

Serious and dangerous criminals must be punished severely as appropriate to their crimes. For serious and dangerous criminals, Bill C-21 would raise maximum penalties so judges would have the ability to punish the worst offenders. Those who commit serious offences would continue to receive sentences that would match the seriousness of their offences. However, this bill is about getting rid of the failed policies that saw our prisons filled with people who needed help, not incarceration.

Bill C-22 is specifically for low-risk and first-time offenders whose incarceration has proven to do little to protect communities in the long run, but has had a negative impact on the lives of these first-time and low-risk offenders. The evidence is clear that the policies of the past are not working. It is because of the harmful policies of the past that we see indigenous and racialized Canadians overrepresented in our prison populations by orders of magnitude. The policies of the past did not prevent nor deter crime and they did not keep us any safer. What they did was target the vulnerable, racialized and indigenous Canadians. Bill C-22 seeks to address some of these systemic issues, and I am proud to support the legislation.

We also want to provide police and prosecutors with the tools and guidance they need to treat addiction and simple drug possession, not as a criminal justice issue but as a health issue. With this in mind, Bill C-22 takes measures to divert away from the criminal justice system default for police and prosecutors when dealing with drug possession.

In my riding of Humber River—Black Creek, I wonder how many lives could have been altered in a positive way had these already been in place. How many individuals were required to reoffend because they could not secure employment after going through the justice system? How many families were destroyed as a result of the systemic racism pervasive within our justice system?

Bill C-22 would allow us to step away from these questions, because we know that those who are low-risk or first-time offenders will not be put through the gauntlet of the justice system. Instead, young people who have made mistakes or perhaps have turned to drugs as a result of a prior trauma will be able to get the help and support they need rather than just becoming another statistic.

Bill C-22 represents a vital step forward for our country. The changes that would come from this legislation would ensure that our criminal justice system would be fair, effective and would keep all Canadians from all communities safe.

I encourage all my colleagues in the House to support the legislation. Let us demonstrate to all Canadians that we will never stop working to create a justice system that embodies our values. Let us step forward together to end the scourge of systemic racism in our justice system and in all areas of Canadian society.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

April 13th, 2021 / 11:55 a.m.
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Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal Humber River—Black Creek, ON

Madam Speaker, it is leaving the flexibility in the hands of judges to bring down a sentence that reflects the seriousness of the crime. That flexibility is there regardless of whether it is a kidnapping issue or whatever.

Our justice system needs additional tools. Bill C-22 would provide it with the means to move forward to help the very people we are talking about, to give options in our justice system.

I have seen far too many families in Humber River—Black Creek whose family members got themselves into trouble for whatever reason and ended up with a minimum sentence applied. That has sent the family and that young person in a direction that probably will seriously impact their lives forever.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

April 13th, 2021 / noon
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Conservative

Blaine Calkins Conservative Red Deer—Lacombe, AB

Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River.

It is a privilege to rise and represent the constituents of Red Deer—Lacombe in this debate, who would be mortified, I believe, to know what the legislation is actually proposing to do to our criminal justice system, notwithstanding the words coming from government MPs.

Let me start with a little bit of context. I am the chair of the Conservative rural crime caucus and had the pleasure of helping to create a document in 2018 that we published as MPs from rural Alberta. Virtually every one of my colleagues from rural Alberta participated in this. We consulted and talked to a wide variety of people in our province. We talked to victims. We talked to rural crime watch people. We talked to anti-crime organizations. We talked to victims-of-crime services and to law enforcement experts, and we produced a comprehensive, thorough and multifaceted report, which we then tabled at the public safety committee in the last Parliament. My colleague from Lakeland had a motion in that Parliament talking about rural crime.

I want to remind all colleagues in the House that crime in rural areas, and specifically here in western Canada, is significantly on the rise. It has been shown statistically. One does not have to go very far to look. A document from the Angus Reid Institute published January 10, 2020, shows that crime rates in Canada dropped precipitously from 1991 to 2014, falling more than 50% during that period. However, crime rates have ticked upward over each of the past four years for which data is available, and that trend is continuing. It shows that confidence is waning significantly in our law enforcement agencies, courts and provincial jurisdictions. It notes that it is more significantly happening in western Canada, and in the Prairie provinces in particular.

Colleagues can imagine that the proposed changes to this legislation would be somewhat horrific to my constituents who ask me about it. If anybody wants to read the report, “Towards a Safer Alberta: Addressing Rural Crime”, it addresses a lot of crime in general by addressing rural crime. I would encourage them to do so. It can be found on my website, www.blainecalkinsmp.ca. I would encourage people to have a look at it and see what good work MPs in western Canada have done to bring forward the concerns of our constituents.

I want to talk a little bit about the overall Government of Canada's approach since it became the government in the fall of 2015. I am not going to get into too much discussion about specific firearms legislation in Bill C-71 or Bill C-21, but I will talk about Bill C-75 and now Bill C-22, and the soft-on-crime approach that the government seems to have. The rationale that it is presenting seems to basically undermine the needs of victims in this country, especially when some of these crimes are certainly crimes against people. They are not just property crimes.

What are some of the things that the government has done? In Bill C-75, which could be called the prequel to Bill C-22, the government basically hybridized well over 100 offences in the Criminal Code. To those who wonder what that means, there are basically two ways in which a Crown prosecutor can proceed with charges before a justice. One of them is through an indictable offence. Until this bill came along, it usually carried with it a set of penalties for which there was a requirement to spend some time in jail or in custody. Then there is something called a summary conviction offence, which is the equivalent, I guess, of a U.S. misdemeanour. It usually carries with it a very small sentence or time served in jail, in lieu of being unable to pay a fine of some kind.

Here are some of the things for which the current government, in the previous Parliament, changed the sentences from mandatory indictable offences to hybrids. This allows the Crown to plea bargain away serious offences such as impaired driving, punishment for theft, both under $5,000 and over $5,000, possession of instruments for breaking and entering, selling automobile master keys and other items, enabling theft, possession of property, stolen property obtained by crime and, of course, importing or exporting property.

That just names a few offences. As I said, there were over 110 offences that the government essentially reduced the penalties for. In fact, it would now be possible for someone to get a summary conviction offence for abduction of a person under the age of 16 or abduction of a person under the age of 14. Those were also included in Bill C-75. It would now be possible to pay a fine less than someone would pay for failing to stop at a stop sign. That is the legacy of Bill C-75 in the first Parliament.

Now let us fast forward to Bill C-22 and take a look at what Liberals are removing mandatory minimum penalties or just basic minimum penalties for in the Criminal Code. First, there is using a firearm or an imitation firearm in the commission of an offence. Interestingly the government is removing Airsoft and paintball guns from possession completely for law-abiding citizens, but if a criminal is using a firearm or an imitation firearm in the commission of an offence, they will now get the pleasure of going home and sitting there, thinking about what they have done. Possession of a firearm, knowing that its possession is unauthorized, is the whole point. Rather than reducing penalties for people who knowingly use or are in possession of unauthorized firearms, the government is instead taking firearms away from law-abiding citizens who are co-operating with the government. It does not make any sense.

More items include possession of a weapon obtained by the commission of an offence. One of the biggest problems we have with rural crime is people going onto properties to steal vehicles, tools and other items that are easily saleable and marketable on the black market. People also, from time to time, go to these properties purposely looking for firearms to steal. Why on earth would the government want to make it less punishable for these types of thieves who are purposefully targeting establishments, casing rural farms and casing our communities?

Why would we reduce the penalties for individuals who are purposefully trying to steal firearms? These firearms end up on the streets of our cities and our communities and end up being used in the commission of offences. This makes no sense, but the government seems to think that this is a good idea.

Here is something we can categorize in the realm of the bizarre. Why on earth would the government remove any semblance of a minimum penalty for someone who was trafficking weapons and firearms? If we listen to police chiefs or victims' services people anywhere in major urban centres, crime is proliferating especially with the use of handguns and firearms in those communities. We know that most of those firearms are obtained illegally through theft or are smuggled across our border. I would think that the government would say it was going to crack down on smugglers, but it would seem that the government is encouraging smuggling while discouraging lawful ownership. Importing or exporting a weapon knowing it is unauthorized is called smuggling. The bill would reduce minimum penalties for that.

The next item is discharging a firearm with intent. Why would we reduce a penalty for somebody purposely discharging a firearm with intent? This makes absolutely no sense. The Liberal MPs are simply misleading the House and Canadians with what their true intent is with Bill C-22, and it is incumbent upon all of us with a conscience in the House of Commons, and with an eye to doing what is right for the law-abiding citizens that we represent, to defeat this irremediable piece of legislation.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

April 13th, 2021 / 12:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Blaine Calkins Conservative Red Deer—Lacombe, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would encourage my colleague to look at the changes being offered in Bill C-22. The mandatory minimum penalties are being reduced for trafficking or possession for the purpose of trafficking controlled drugs or substances, importing and exporting or possession for the purpose of exporting controlled drugs and substances, and production of a substance in schedule I or schedule II. These are not simple possessions. These are people who are using controlled drugs and substances in organized crime by smuggling it into our country and dispersing it among our population. We now have more people dying, I believe, in western Canada from fentanyl overdoses than we have from COVID.

If we are going to talk about the substance of the bill, let us actually talk about what the government is proposing, which is possession for the purpose of trafficking and smuggling or the manufacturing for the purpose of trafficking. That is what the government is doing. It is a misnomer and it misleading the House to suggest that this bill is talking about simple possession. It is simply not true.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

April 13th, 2021 / 12:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Gary Vidal Conservative Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, it is indeed an honour to speak in the House today regarding Bill C-22.

This last weekend the Prime Minister, while speaking to the Liberal Party policy convention, said that the Conservative Party of Canada was disconnected with Canadians. If the Prime Minister was looking for an example of a party disconnected from Canadians, he need look no further than his own party with the introduction of this bill, Bill C-22, and how it would affect those in rural Canada.

As someone who has lived my whole life in northern Saskatchewan, I not only find this bill dangerously naive, but the government's communications around it are actually offensive to me. Of course, far be it for me to suggest anyone might deliberately mislead Canadians. Perhaps it is simply a poor understanding of the Criminal Code or the tendency to rely on divisive political ideology that led to the inaccuracies in communicating what is actually in this bill.

Contrary to what members of the Liberal Party may have been given as talking points by the PMO to use in the debate, those of us who actually read the legislation understand this is not about reducing mandatory minimum penalties for simple possession of drugs. Mandatory minimums for simple possession do not exist today. This is not about minor crimes, and it is not about minor offences.

Here are just a few examples of what Liberals consider minor offences for which Bill C-22 would eliminate mandatory minimums as they relate to gun crimes: 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, possession for the purposes of weapons trafficking and discharging a firearm with recklessness.

Additionally, Bill C-22 would eliminate mandatory minimums under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act that actually target drug dealers. Examples of these are trafficking or possession for the purpose of trafficking, importing and exporting or possession for the purpose of exporting, and the production of substances included in schedule I or II. Examples of these are heroin, cocaine, fentanyl and crystal meth. This is not, as suggested, help for those who struggle with addictions. It is actually help for those criminals who prey on those people who suffer from addictions.

Finally, this bill would allow for greater use of conditional sentence orders for a number of offences. The list is long, so I will include only a few examples such as sexual assault, kidnapping and assault causing bodily harm or with a weapon, which includes the assaulting of a peace officer causing bodily harm or with a weapon. This clearly puts communities in my riding at risk.

As a lifelong resident of northern Saskatchewan, a hockey coach, a former mayor and now member of Parliament, I have seen first-hand how gun and gang violence, and drugs, ruin people's lives and devastate families and communities. I find myself wondering if members of the Liberal government have been contacted, like I have been, by mayors, chiefs, police officers and community members pleading for something to be done and if that would make them realize Bill C-22 is not a solution. Neither is Bill C-21.

One month ago, there was a story reported in the Battlefords News-Optimist that literally brought me to tears when I read it. I would encourage all members of this House to read the story, as it provides an incredible insight into what life can be like in the northern and often remote communities in my riding.

The story reviews a judge's decision, arguments by the Crown prosecutor and the victim impact statements of RCMP officer Robert McCready and of my good friend Staff Sergeant Ryan How. The incident, as reported, happened in my riding and shows an almost unbelievably violent disregard for human life. It includes multiple guns, pursuits, many other things, and finally, police ramming a vehicle.

In his victim impact statement, my friend Staff Sergeant Ryan How said the following:

When I encountered the gold truck you were in north of Loon Lake the only emotion I felt was sadness.

I knew right away how this was going to end. It’s always the same, just a varying degree of tragedy. When I saw your co-accused run from the Equinox and point what may have been a gun at me, I just felt tired and defeated....

I knew what you would do when you came up to the road block. And you did the same thing every other desperate criminal does - you accelerated and swerved towards the police.

As you did that, I took off my seatbelt and accelerated my truck directly at you. I wanted to be able to at least have the chance to manoeuver in the cab if you and your fellow gang members started shooting at me. As I lined up my truck to yours head-on I fully expected to be shot but I tried to make sure my truck would stay on a straight path and hit you even if I couldn’t steer because you needed to be stopped.... Even after all of this, after hours of chasing after you, hours of being frustrated, angry, and tired, [I] was required to be of calm mind and use sound tactics as I drew my gun on you and the people with you.... At that moment I was furious that it had come to this. I was furious that your stupidity was causing me to miss an important family event going on right at that moment I had you in my gun sights. I was furious that I might have to shoot and kill you.... I didn’t shoot you...My coworkers didn’t shoot you, even though we were taunted and dared to do it by the people in the truck with you. Even though your actions caused one of my coworkers to almost be run over and killed. We made sure you were safe. It was a joke and a game to you. It was life and death for me, for my partners, and the public. I’m telling you that on January 17, 2019, you were lucky to be arrested by some of the most capable and experienced police officers in the country. They showed incredible restraint and professionalism to make sure you lived to be here today.

Another one of those capable and experienced police officers was Officer Robert McCready, who was called in six hours before his shift was scheduled to begin. A short part of his victim impact statement includes the following. He said:

I had been in Loon Lake for a while at that time, and had a feeling that it was probably related to gang activity, firearms or both. I got geared up and found that gang members/affiliates have possible firearms and are driving in two vehicles and are evading police. My thoughts are “great, here we go again.” This was a constant way of life around that area, something would pop off, at least once to twice a week or more.... This went on all afternoon, which took a bad turn when the vehicle started going through a populated area, just as school was letting off, and for fear of worsening conditions, police had to back off again.

In speaking with Staff Sergeant How later, he shared with me how these events had become almost routine. Can members imagine this being a routine part of their day? This is the part that brought tears to my eyes as I fought back the emotion.

Let me be clear, this day was the culmination of a long history, but it had to start somewhere. The idea that government is seeking to eliminate mandatory prison time for drug traffickers and for those who commit violent crimes is really hard to fathom for me. Allowing criminals who commit violent acts to serve their sentences on house arrest puts communities at risk.

For the last couple of minutes, I would like to talk about the issues many community leaders talked to me about. In addition to doing everything they can to combat gun and gang crime, they spend many hours fighting those who traffic drugs in their communities and who prey on the vulnerable who are struggling with mental health issues and addictions. Bill C-22 would make life far more difficult for local law enforcement and prosecutors by reducing and, in some cases, removing penalties for trafficking, importing or producing schedule I or II substances.

Conservatives believe that those struggling with addiction or mental health issues should get the help they need. They need treatment rather than prison time if their crime is not violent. Conservatives support restorative justice policies to lower incarceration rates for overrepresented groups in our criminal justice system, provided that public safety considerations are paramount.

What is clear in Bill C-22 is that the government, driven by ideology and having no basis in the reality on the ground in rural Canada, is making our communities less safe by removing many important tools. I encourage all members to take a long, hard look at the proposed legislation before they vote.