Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
It's a pleasure, as always, to be here before the standing committee on justice and legal affairs. I'm pleased to be here with Myles Kirvan. This is the first opportunity to be before the committee with the new Deputy Minister. I'm very pleased and honoured to be with him.
Mr. Chairman, the Department of Justice has the responsibility of supporting the finest justice system in the world and making it as fair, accessible, and efficient as possible. The employees of the department have helped our government fulfill its commitment to tackle crime and protect Canadians through their invaluable advice and their tremendous efforts. I greatly appreciate their support and reliability, and on behalf of the government I would like to thank them all for their hard work.
The Department of Justice plays the unique role of legal adviser to the government through developing policy and drafting and reforming laws. Its employees also interact with the justice system and its many players, including other levels of government, professional associations, and a wide range of non-governmental organizations, from the community level to the national arena.
Mr. Chairman, our government continues to move forward with its tough on crime agenda to ensure that our communities are safe places for people to live, raise their families, and do business. As stated in the recent Speech from the Throne:
The law must protect everyone, and those who commit crimes must be held to account. Canadians want a justice system that delivers justice.
Since we came to power, our government has made a strong commitment to protect families and communities everywhere in Canada. We have chosen a balanced approach. It is based on prevention, enforcement and rehabilitation. But we have to do more.
Along with further protecting all Canadians, our government is also committed to responding to the needs of victims of crime, ensuring their voices are heard and their concerns are taken seriously within the justice system.
As I mentioned in my last appearance before this committee, our government has introduced an important piece of legislation, known as Sébastien's Law, to make the protection of society a primary goal of our youth criminal justice system. It would also give Canadians greater confidence that violent and repeat young offenders will be held accountable. It would simplify the rules to keep these offenders off the streets, and would require the courts to consider publishing the name of a violent young offender in individual circumstances when necessary to protect society.
Mr. Chairman, our government has reintroduced several pieces of legislation over the past couple of months, including measures to crack down on white-collar crime and fraud and increase justice for victims. Bill C-21 will amend the Criminal Code to provide tougher sentences for the criminals responsible, specifically a two-year mandatory jail term for fraud over $1 million, with a maximum term of 14 years in prison.
Because drugs are the currency of organized crime and gangs, we have also reintroduced legislation to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. This bill would impose mandatory sentences on drug producers and traffickers, specifically targeting the criminal enterprise of gangs and other violent criminal organizations.
Having this legislation passed would better protect communities and send a very clear message: if you produce and traffic drugs, if you run a grow op or a meth lab in residential neighbourhoods, if you threaten the safety of Canada's youth, you will serve jail time. Canadians should not be asked to tolerate criminal activity that attempts to flourish at the expense of law-abiding Canadians and those vulnerable to the lure of drugs.
We also take extremely seriously the many instances of child sexual exploitation facilitated by the Internet. The creation and distribution of child pornography are appalling crimes in which children are brutally victimized over and over again. The World Wide Web provides new and easier means for offenders to make, view, and distribute child pornography. This has significantly increased not only the availability and the volume of child pornography but also the level of violence perpetrated against children.
Our government recently proposed a mandatory reporting regime across Canada that will require suppliers of Internet services to report information about Internet child pornography. This will strengthen our ability to protect our children from sexual predators and help police rescue these young victims and prosecute the criminals responsible.
Mr. Chairman, our government has also shown its concern for the families of murder victims. We are acting to end faint-hope reviews to underscore the fact that murderers must serve serious time for the most serious crime. The victims of these horrendous crimes should not be made to feel that the life of their loved one didn't count. We need to spare the families of murder victims the anguish of attending repeated early-parole eligibility hearings and having to relive their losses over and over again.
Knowing what victims of crime have faced, our government has made a long-standing commitment to respond to their needs. In 2007 we committed $52 million over four years to the departments of justice and public safety. These funds go to support a number of programs and services to help the federal government and the provinces and territories respond to a variety of needs of victims of crime. They also provide victims with the resources to attend parole hearings and to seek help if they experience crime while abroad.
In addition, we have committed more than $6.6 million over two years, including expanded programming under the federal victims strategy, the details of which I will soon be providing.
I would draw particular attention, Mr. Chairman, to the victims of crime initiative. Among other things, it helps provide crown witness coordinators in the north, where rates of victimization are high. The $5 million for this initiative expired at the end of the last fiscal year, so although these funds did not appear in the main estimates they have in fact been part of the supplementary estimates that were tabled this week.
Our government is committed to supporting victims, and we will continue to do so. I'm proud of the role my department has played in ensuring that victims of crime have a voice in Canada's justice system. The perspectives and stories of victims of crime provide invaluable insight and inspiration in our common efforts to ensure the integrity of our justice system.
Mr. Chairman, over the last year our government has continued to make progress toward the goal of protecting with all the resources at its command. In the year ahead the Department of Justice will continue to support our government's efforts as efficiently and effectively as possible, both on its own and in collaboration with other federal departments and agencies, partners from the provinces, territories, and non-governmental organizations.
To conclude, Mr. Chairman, I would like to once again express my appreciation to you and to your committee members for this opportunity.
As you know, the Department of Justice plays a leading role in meeting the needs of Canadians, women and men.
As you know, the department is instrumental in meeting the needs of Canadians. We will continue to do so. I will do my utmost to ensure that the funds that are approved in the estimates will continue to be spent wisely in the service of Canadians.
Thank you. I look forward to any questions that you might have.