Thank you very much. I'm pleased to be here with Catherine Kane, from the Department of Justice, who I think you know very well from all the different pieces of legislation we've had.
I'm pleased to address the members of the committee, as they begin their review of Bill C-10, Safe Streets and Communities Act.
The Safe Streets and Communities Act fulfills our government's commitment to quickly reintroduce legislation to combat crime and stand up for victims and law-abiding Canadians. As you know, Canadians gave us a strong mandate to bring forward measures that will better protect society and ensure criminals are held accountable for their actions.
Bill C-10 combines nine bills that were not passed in the previous Parliament. All of them have been debated in the House of Commons and/or the Senate.
I am pleased today to be joined by my colleague, the Honourable Vic Toews, the Minister of Safety, to outline the important measures contained in this bill. I will speak to parts 2 and 4 of the bill. Minister Toews will speak to parts 1 and 3 of the bill.
As I previously stated, while the text of Bill C-10 is certainly longer than most, the fact remains that these reforms have been debated, studied, and in some cases passed by at least one chamber. I encourage all members of the committee to consult the parliamentary record that exists for all of the previous bills.
I'll take a few moments to highlight a number of the measures.
Part 2 of the Safe Streets and Communities Act includes former Bill S-10, the Penalties for Organized Drug Crime Act. As you may know, it proposes to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to impose mandatory penalties for the offences of production, trafficking, possession for the purpose of trafficking, importing and exporting, or possession for the purpose of exporting a schedule I drug, such as heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine, and schedule II drugs such as marijuana.
As you may be aware, this is the fourth time the bill has been introduced. They've been passed by both chambers, but obviously never by both in the same session. This bill is in exactly the same form it was in at the dissolution of the last Parliament.
Part 2 also includes reforms previously proposed by the former Bill C-16, the Ending House Arrest for Property and Other Serious Crimes by Serious and Violent Offenders Act. The reforms would explicitly state that a conditional sentence is never available for offences punishable by a maximum of 14 years or life; offences prosecuted by indictment and punishable by a maximum penalty of 10 years that result in bodily harm, involve the import and/or export, trafficking, and production of drugs, or involve the use of a weapon; or the listed property and violent offences punishable by 10 years and prosecuted by indictment, such as criminal harassment, trafficking in persons, and theft over $5,000.
This is the third time these reforms have been introduced by our government. On each prior occasion, they received second reading approval in principle and scope.
I note there have been a few technical changes made to the list of excluded offences punishable by a maximum of 10 years. These include changes to include the recently enacted new offence of motor vehicle theft and to coordinate the proposed imposition of a mandatory sentence of imprisonment in section 172.1, the luring of a child, with the conditional sentences amendments.
The last component of part 2 is on the reforms previously proposed by Bill C-54, Protecting Children from Sexual Predators Act. These reforms seek to consistently and adequately condemn all forms of child sexual abuse through the imposition of new and higher mandatory penalties. They also seek to prevent the commission of sexual offences against children through the creation of two new offences. We also seek to require the courts to consider imposing conditions to prevent suspected or convicted child sex offenders from engaging in conduct that could facilitate or further a sexual offence against a child.
Bill C-54 had been passed by the House of Commons with all-party support. It was at debate on third reading in the Senate when the opposition parties unfortunately decided to force an election. I was very disappointed that this important bill then died on the order paper.
We've made some changes since that time, as you will see, to increase maximum penalties with a corresponding increase in mandatory minimum sentences to better reflect the nature of the offences, including making or distributing child pornography or a parent or guardian procuring his or her child for unlawful sexual activity.
These changes are consistent with the government's objectives for the former Bill C-54. As well, the two new sexual offences proposed by this part would be added to schedule 1 of the Criminal Records Act to ensure that persons convicted of either offence are subject to the same period of ineligibility for a record suspension, currently referred to as a pardon, as they are for other child sexual offences.
Finally, part IV of the bill proposes to amend the Youth Criminal Justice Act to strengthen the way the system deals with violent and repeat young offenders.
These measures include highlighting protection of the public as a principle, making it easier to detain youth charged with serious offences pending trial, ensuring that prosecutors consider seeking adult sentences for the most serious offences, requiring police to keep records of extra judicial measures, and requiring courts to lift the publication ban on the names of young offenders convicted of violent offences when a youth sentence is given. These reforms were previously proposed in Bill C-4 , Sebastien's Law.
The former Bill C-4 was extensively studied by the House of Commons standing committee through 16 meetings at the dissolution of the previous Parliament. The bill includes changes to address concerns that have been highlighted by the provinces regarding pretrial adult sentencing and deferred custody provisions in the bill. For example, changes to the pretrial detention provisions respond to the provinces' request for more flexibility to detain youth who are spiralling out of control and pose a risk to the public--by committing a serious offence if released--even if they have not been charged initially with a serious offence. The test for pretrial detention would now be self-contained in the act, without requiring reference to the Criminal Code, which is currently the case.
Other technical changes include removing the proposed test for adult sentences and deferred custody and supervision orders and returning to the current law's approach. For example, the former bill referred to the standard of “beyond a reasonable doubt”, which some provinces found more difficult to meet. That has been removed. The bill continues the current approach of leaving it up to the courts to determine the appropriate standard of proof.
Under Bill C-10, deferred custody and supervision orders will not be available if the youth has been found guilty of an offence involving or attempting to cause serious bodily harm.
In closing, most of Bill C-10's reforms have been debated and studied, and some have even passed. The few new elements I've outlined are consistent with the objectives of the former bills, as originally introduced, or make some needed technical changes. I urge the committee to work with the government to support the timely enactment of the Safe Streets and Communities Act.
We are taking action to protect families, stand up for victims, and hold individuals accountable. Canadians can count on our government's commitment to fulfill its promise to pass this comprehensive bill within the first 100 sitting days of this Parliament.
Thank you very much.
I would ask Minister Toews now to deliver his remarks.