Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
It is really unfortunate, in light of the defeat of our amendment, to see that we are now stuck with this amendment which, in my opinion, will impose a tough sentence and, in particular, create an obvious illusion of security. The idea of imposing tough sentences as a deterrent has given rise to much debate for a very long time now.
As a matter of fact, I had a chance to look at a study entitled “Punir ou réhabiliter les contrevenants? Du Nothing works au What works (Montée, déclin et retour de l'idéal de réhabilitation”, written by Mr. Pierre Lalande, research officer at the Quebec Correctional Service under the Ministry of Public Safety. That study showed, firstly, that when it comes to punishment or rehabilitation, this is a complex subject that is not only difficult to understand, but also one where it is difficult to arrive at a simple position or simple conclusions. Ultimately, the conclusions that can be drawn are as complex as is the human reality. At the same time, he pointed out that some great thinkers, like Robert Martinson and Pierre Landreville, a leading expert on criminology and the study of criminal policy and practices, believe that what could be called the Quebec school of thought or Quebec practices in terms of punishing criminals or taking them through a process of rehabilitation, has yielded extremely convincing results. At the very least, we should not be ignoring that accumulated expertise, which in fact shows that Quebec society has one of the lowest crime rates.
I am still just as amazed by this, and it's too bad. Unfortunately, our amendment was defeated. That might have given a different direction to my comments with respect to the maximum 10-year sentence. But based on the same arguments I made previously—in fact, at the last meeting and again recently—with respect to the amendment that was moved, we are potentially imposing prison sentences of up to 10 years on people who may legitimately have been a victim of circumstances—people who were present to express their opinion but had no criminal intent. That is really appalling.
My colleague, Françoise, made the point a number of times—as did I— about deterrence, drawing a parallel to the means, other than legislative, that can be deployed to counter crime.
When we heard from the chiefs of police, who have expertise in controlling crowds that can get out of hand and degenerate into uncontrolled rioting, the question of means came up several times.
We can also talk about police methods. They have evolved to such an extent that police now have many more tools available to them than they did previously, when they had to be satisfied with using a baton. There are means available now that are, not only less brutal, but more respectful as well of the unfortunate presence of people who are nothing more than witnesses or participants, with no criminal intent. That is already a good thing.
But to use another vivid image, in terms of available means, I think we can all agree that, in order to control excessive speed on our highways, we impose pretty hefty fines. And yet one may wonder which approach has the greatest disincentive effect. Is it the hundreds of dollars in fines and the demerit points the offender will be facing or is it a police presence on our highways?
Let me give you an example. As I was driving to the general council meeting of the Quebec City branch in Drummondville, I was passed on Highway 20 by the owner of a recent model Volvo S70—in other words, a pretty expensive vehicle—driving very fast, who hypocritically applied the brakes as soon as he saw two QPP police cars. I don't think he did that because of the amount of the fine. At least I assume that the amount of the fine was probably not the greatest deterrent, because that individual had the means to own that kind of car. The much greater deterrent was the risk of being stopped by police and being delayed for some time to the point of losing patience.
I'd like to come back to my example of the Frost fence. What is unfortunate is that we will be imposing on many people who have never engaged in criminal behaviour the obligation to show that they had a legitimate reason for wearing a mask. We will be exposing people to very tough prison sentences without any kind of assurance that this will reduce crime in the context of a riot or unlawful assembly. One of the unhappy consequences of that is that our police could end up with a false sense of security by having the means to control crime. That is the reason why I intend to vote against this amendment.
I come back to the example of my friend who attended several demonstrations. Before going to Toronto, he informed me of his last wishes in case the situation got completely out of control. As I said, he is highly experienced. He has taken part in a number of always peaceful demonstrations, in order to express his views in a public space and fully cooperating with police and other authorities to ensure that things would not get out of control. A number of times, he expressed his frustration at seeing rioting thugs highjacking perfectly legitimate demonstrations. One role that I am very proud to play within this committee involves giving authorities the means to ensure that my friend will not be exposed to harm or become the innocent victim of rioting hoodlums, thus requiring me to honour his final wishes.
It is really a shame that we have hit a wall with our colleagues opposite. We are really not creating solutions; rather, we are creating a whole host of problems.