Mr. Speaker, it is always an honour and privilege to bring the voice of Chatham-Kent—Leamington to this place, and today it is to put some comments on the record regarding Bill C-20, an act establishing the public complaints and review commission and amending certain acts and statutory instruments.
Before I get into the content of the bill, I want to begin by thanking the women and men who wear the uniform to keep Canadians safe.
Canadians expect accountability. They expect law and order, and they expect strong oversight mechanisms to ensure that there is no abuse of power. We recognize that our RCMP and CBSA agents put themselves in the possibility of harm's way every time they put on the uniform.
Canada and the U.S. share the world's longest, undefended border, and we as Canadians share this border with a country that owns more firearms than they have citizens. This is part of a different culture and a different history, and that is not the subject of today's debate.
The point I am making is that the CBSA has received much attention recently, and we look to them for their role in preventing gun violence, particularly in our cities. We ask that they address the issue of criminals smuggling illegal guns into this country, and we know that this activity is often also tied up with drug smuggling and trafficking. We ask that these people, along with law enforcement, put themselves in harm's way to keep us safe, and for that I want to thank them.
Let us look at the content of the bill.
The legislation would rename the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, or RCMP, to the public complaints and review commission, which I will refer to as the PCRC. Under its new name, the commission would also be responsible for reviewing civilian complaints against the CBSA. The bill's goal is to ensure that all of Canada's law enforcement agencies have an oversight body.
What I really do like about the bill is that it would codify timelines for the RCMP and CBSA responses to the PCRC. We have all heard of complaints that went into the civilian body, but then there was no response back. The reports, reviews, recommendations, and the information sharing between the RCMP and the PCRC, and the CBSA and the PCRC would be mandated and codified. The bill also stipulates annual reporting by the RCMP and CBSA on actions taken in response. This would be a further mechanism to ensure action follows complaints. As well, the bill would mandate reporting of disaggregated race-based data, provides for public education and provides for a statutory framework to govern the CBSA responses to serious incidents.
By way of some further background, the bill was introduced in the 43rd Parliament as Bill C-3. However, it did not pass second reading. It was introduced very late in the session and died on the Order Paper when that unnecessary election was called. In the 42nd Parliament, it was known as Bill C-98, but it died awaiting a vote in the Senate.
I want to put on the record that Conservatives have supported this legislation at each stage. I also want to note that this legislation appears to be straightforward and meets its objectives, but the newly created PCRC can only recommend disciplinary action and cannot enforce it. There will still need to be a further step as this process unfolds.
Conservatives believe in upholding the dignity of our borders and ensuring that our Canadian Border Services Agency is properly resourced, both in manpower and equipment. The civilian review commission should improve oversight and help the CBSA be an even more effective agency in its duties and functions, similar to the function of the renamed Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP.
As I stated earlier, Canadians expect effective oversight of federal law enforcement agencies, but what is disappointing is the length of time it has taken to get this done. The Liberals promised oversight in the 2015 election, then squandered two Parliaments in fulfilling their promise. Now, one month before Parliament breaks, the House is supposed to hurry up and pass this legislation. We are supportive, as we have been in the past, but we will review it, and we will do our job in this place. We have always stood for the security of Canadians and will continue to do so.
I live in Leamington, only 45 minutes away from the Windsor-Detroit border. I have crossed that border to the U.S. numerous times. By and large, I have had many good experiences and professional interactions with CBSA staff as I returned to Canada either from travelling to the U.S. or abroad, or just from an evening or afternoon in Detroit.
However, several years ago, while my four daughters were still quite young, my wife did not have such a pleasant experience. It was some time ago, in 2003 during the SARS outbreak, so there are similarities to today's times. My brother-in-law, a Canadian, was working in St. Louis at the time and flew to Detroit to come back to Canada to renew his status paperwork.
While my wife answered the questions asked by the CBSA agent, the agent assumed some information regarding my brother-in-law’s citizenship that he had not confirmed through questioning. Frustrated once he learned of his error, he swore at my young children, and literally threw the paperwork of six people into the van. I was not there; I was tied up elsewhere, so my wife took my four young daughters, a credit to her, into the U.S. to pick Darrell up. This agent now demanded that the paperwork be returned in a different order.
If the PCRC would have been in existence then, it would have heard from us, and this officer’s conduct would have been reported. This is a relatively minor incident in the scheme of things that could have happened, but there is a role for this oversight agency.
This situation occurred 19 years ago, so some time has gone by, but I know that it has been seven years since an idea for this oversight body was introduced in this place. The government campaigned on that promise. Let us hope it will not take 19 years to get this promise to Canadians completed.
Yesterday, in the House, we debated Bill S-4, a bill that enjoyed support at second reading on all sides of the aisle. Bill S-4 was Bill C-23 in the last Parliament, which also did not see the light of day in this chamber, but I digress. It seems that good bills do not receive good priority for this file in this place, but we will leave that for another day.
Bill S-4 asks to improve the efficiency of our court system through bringing in the use of video and other changes to address the huge backlog of cases. This backlog, of course, was exacerbated by the pandemic. We have all heard the expression “justice delayed is justice denied”, and the Jordan decision by the Supreme Court has codified this expression.
My purpose is not to redebate yesterday’s work in this chamber. Bill S-4 is off to committee, and hopefully it will be improved through amendments. Then hopefully it will be quickly returned to this place for third reading. My point in raising Bill S-4 is that during debate, several statistics were tabled during the interventions and I found them troubling.
There has been a 32% increase in violent crime since 2015. There were 124,000 more violent crimes last year than in 2015. There were 788 homicides in Canada last year. There were 611 in 2015, a 29% increase.
As we have heard before, there has been a 92% increase in gang-related homicides since 2015 and a 61% increase in reported sexual assaults since 2015. Police-reported hate crimes have increased 72% over the last two years, and 31,000 Canadians lost their lives to overdose between 2016 and 2022. There have been 7,169 deaths from opioid overdose in Canada in 2021 alone, and 21 people are dying per day from overdoses. Before the pandemic, it was 11.
Thus far, this is the record of the government when it comes to keeping Canadians safe over the past seven years. At their core, Bill S-4 and Bill C-20 are pieces of legislation that take us in the right direction. This cannot happen soon enough. I hope they now receive the priority they deserve.