Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak on the Bill C-41 amendments to the Criminal Code respecting sentencing.
It seems to me that the Liberal Party, as I mentioned earlier today in another speech, has been listening to the Reform Party but only with one ear. I say "only with one ear" because it has made a bit of a U-turn and is only halfway around the curve. If that party were to listen with both ears perhaps we would get all the way around the U-turn, get the job done once and for all, and get it done properly. As Reform members on this side of the House we feel the job is not being done by this bill.
It would have been simple to get it done. Then we could have moved on to other things of equal importance such as unemployment and deficit control. Here we are talking about a little change to the Criminal Code that could be so much better. If I do have to praise the Liberals for their efforts in the bill it would be so faint that it would never be heard above the noise that sometimes comes from that side of the House.
As Reformers we are serious. We want serious changes to the Criminal Code to recognize that victims deserve our sympathy and criminals are to be punished. This is a relatively simple statement of policy, but we find that the bill is into mind reading
games in order to determine the state of mind of a criminal when he commits a criminal act.
I ask the mover of the bill and the government that is introducing the bill if they can tell me the difference from a victim's point of view between, for example, someone who is murdered out of hate or someone who is murdered because he or she happens to be an innocent bystander when a bank is being robbed and catches a stray bullet. In both cases the victim is dead. Perhaps this analogy is not very good because the victims in both cases are dead and their opinions would be hard to obtain. However let us think about that particular point. A victim is a victim.
As my colleague was saying just a few minutes ago, if we are going to start differentiating between the motivation of the criminal in determination of the sentencing and what went through his mind when we determine sentencing, we are totally and absolutely forgetting the fact that the victim and society are what criminal law is here to protect. That is the number one objective. Canadians are equal in every sense under the law. If we are going to start differentiating between one class and another class then I agree with my colleague from Kootenay East that the country will have lost it.
My point is that whether it is motivated by hate or any other reason the victim suffers. The whole reason we have criminal laws in our country is to ensure that society and individuals are protected.
Any attempt to vary the sentencing according to the mindset of the criminal will not only do what I have just said. It will cause more avenues of appeal by the criminal and more money to be spent by the legal profession and the courts to review the case ad nauseam while the innocent victim is ignored, helpless and forgotten.
The Minister of Justice will tell us that he is introducing victim impact statements. This is only a very small step in the recognition that victims have rights. I am glad to see they are introducing victim statements. It is the first acknowledgement we have had. The Reform Party policy states that where there is a conflict between the rights of the criminal and the rights of the victim, the victim's rights shall prevail.
Here we have not only a small acknowledgement but the first acknowledgement that we should be hearing from the victim, that we should be considering what has happened to him. We can deal with the criminal. We can lock him up. We do not advocate that we throw away the key. We do advocate that we have rehabilitation, that we have punishment and that society has to be protected. That is part and parcel but let us remember the victim is number one.
Talking about the review after 15 years, the very faint hope clause, the government is going to allow a victim impact statement when the criminal comes up for a parole hearing after an automatic 15-year period if he is in for longer. Again I think it is getting a bit late if we have to wait until then to hear what has happened to the victim.
As I said, let us get the job done once and for all so we can move on to other things that are equally important. We feel we should talk about the debt and the deficit. Crime is important. The debt is important. If we get the job all wrapped up at once we could really improve the efficiency of the House.
Another thing I want to speak about is that the court will become an offshoot of the credit bureau: if your credit is no good you are off the hook as far as fines are concerned. Taking a look at the bill, I quote from section 734.2 regarding fines: "A court may fine an offender under this section only if the court is satisfied that the offender is able to pay the fine discharged under section 736".
We are only going to fine people if they can afford to pay. The rich get it in the neck and the poor get off scot-free. Is that what we are saying? Does this mean that destitute criminals are going to get a free ride, commit petty crimes and small thefts and get parking tickets and so on with impunity? If they have no money they do not have to pay. It says it right there. That is the section.
Who is going to believe him if he is standing in dock saying: "Your Honour, I have no money"? Is the court going to say: "Let us set this case aside and launch an investigation into how much money is in his bank account and how much money he owes on his credit card"?
Let us be reasonable. The law has to be applied to everybody regardless of their status in society. Not only are we talking about creating different classes according to their mindset, but we are talking about different classes according to their ability to pay. More pay for it, more avenues are appealed and so on.