Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak on this particular issue and I am thankful to my colleague for having drafted this bill. I hope it succeeds.
Many areas of Canada's justice system need to be revamped. I believe here too regarding witnesses there is a need to restructure some of the existing programs. I believe a bill of this nature would certainly help do that.
As a former police officer who served for 22 years, I have seen more than my fair share of trials and certainly my share of witnesses. Unfortunately I have run into some situations where the safety of witnesses and informants and potential witnesses has been threatened, compromised by organized and ruthless thugs who know very well how to exploit fear to their advantage.
As a result of this experience I support this bill. I am confident that witness protection will be improved by uniformity of practice across the country. I hope in the future that my colleague and I will be able to work together to write more legislation that will help make Canada a much safer place.
I am quite frankly getting a little more discouraged at the fact that it is taking private members' bills as opposed to unified government action to cause changes to be made in the criminal justice system. Too often it is a private member along with our party, the Reform Party, that is interested in protecting the victims, the defence of witnesses and informants, the preservation of our peaceful way of life and swift justice for those who deserve it.
The last time I rose to speak to a bill dealing with a justice issue was on Bill C-8. It is a bill that will have the probable effect of taking power away from police officers. This government promises to regulate guns to such a degree that even lawful ownership by responsible people will be threatened.
The justice minister intends to regulate special rights for homosexuals. The chairman of the Standing Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs wants to get soft on murderers. There you have it: Disarm the people; take power away from the police; disrupt the family by giving all the privileges that are now accorded to married couples to homosexuals; and tap murderers on the wrist. If that is not a recipe for disaster, I do not know what is.
This government wants to make us totally incapable of self defence. It wants to limit the power of our police officers to defend us. It wants to contribute to the raising of a generation of dysfunctional youth by undermining the best system of justice preservation any society can have, the family.
It is no wonder we need witness protection legislation. The need for witness protection legislation begs the addressing of another issue. That is tough anti-gang and tough anti-organized crime legislation. As yet, and it is no real surprise, I have not seen any sign this government will be addressing those issues either.
One of the main threats to witnesses comes from gangs and organized crime. Fortunately this country has not been ravaged by gangs and crime rings to the degree our neighbour to the south has. However, with time and a vacuum of political will to get tough on crime, gangs will very well extract the same sort of toll on us as they have for years on the United States.
Incidents of witnesses who have been harassed either by an accused or by friends or family of an accused are not that frequent. Far more common is the terrorism people who come forward either as citizens or as repentant members of crime rings have to face before, during and after trial. This bill will help to make it easier to protect threatened witnesses.
There is so much more that could be and should be done. For instance we should be legislating harsher penalties for people who commit crimes as part of an organized crime ring. We should be cracking down on gangs before they get into our communities. We should be proactive in these areas.
While the legislation we are discussing today is a good piece of work, it is nonetheless a reaction to the symptom of a problem and not to the disease.
There is a disease in Canada. That disease is a growing lack of regard for the law and for public order. That disease has been allowed to spread and to contaminate more and more segments of our society. There are reasons for increased crime. There are reasons for a disregard of the law.
Canada has gone soft on crime. We are no longer doling out justice where it is deserved. We have become a nation of people claiming victim status. There has to come with that a subsequent decline of individual responsibility.
This government has been an accomplice in spreading the myth that somehow poverty or discrimination causes crime, that if Statistics Canada raises its arbitrary poverty rate then we will suddenly see a corresponding increase in the crime rate. That is nonsense.
Canada has become a nation committed to protected symbolic rights, arbitrary rights instead of basic common sense rights that everyone can relate to. Rather than protecting a person's right to have an income, a family, and a community that is unfettered by government taxation and regulation, we are protecting the rights of those who least deserve them.
We are attacking the family. We are burdening it with taxes so that parents cannot take care of their own. We are regulating how a family can raise its children. We are attacking its very definition by enlarging it so much that the word family becomes meaningless.
These things are leading to an increase in crime, an increase in lawlessness and a decline in the morality that has built this nation and has kept it so relatively free from crime over the generations.
It is tragic how we have mixed up our priorities. I think it is very tragic.
This government has a great opportunity to reverse the trend. Instead, the rhetoric of the government indicates that more of the same is coming. We can safely predict that rather than cutting crime and making Canada a safer place to live, the government's misguided and out of touch stand on justice issues will lead Canada further and further down the path of becoming the sort of society that none of us will want our children to live in.
It is a shame that only private members are producing legislation that makes sense. It is a shame that new and better witness protection legislation is necessary. The fact that my hon. colleague has felt the need to write this bill is a subtle sign of what is going wrong with Canada and our system. I only hope that his colleagues on the other side of the House will have the perceptiveness to pick up on this issue, listen to the common sense of the common people and take the correct steps to put Canada back on the right track.
I urge the support of the House for this bill.