Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and comment on Bill C-55, an act to amend the Criminal Code.
Before I begin, I want to tell the House a story about what happened not long ago in my hometown of Williams Lake, a city of about 20,000 people in the central interior of British Columbia. On July 16, 1996 a wife and mother was innocently riding her bicycle in a wooded area near the city one afternoon. When she did not come home that night, police were called to investigate. Two days later they found her body. She had been sexually assaulted and murdered. To this day her killer has yet to be found despite the outrage in the community and the thousands of dollars which have been put aside as a reward to those who might point to the killer.
I tell this story to the House today, not to sensationalize another murder case, but to give an example of what people in the Cariboo-Chilcotin, and all Canadians I might add, live with every day. People do not know who or where this murderer is and they worry about their safety.
How does this deep concern that Canadians have for their physical safety relate to Bill C-55? The bill deals with changes to the criminal justice system and Canadians want criminal justice reform. They want to be safe. They want to feel safe in their homes. They want to walk down their streets without fear and they want their neighbourhoods restored for themselves and their children to places of peaceful activity.
Will this legislation restore people's basic freedoms and allow Canadians to experience greater freedom from fear? This is the test we place on the legislation as we consider it today.
Let me briefly outline the contents of the bill. Bill C-55 consists of three components: first, a dangerous offender provision; second, a long term offender provision and, third, a judicial restraint provision. I want to examine each of these in turn.
First, let us look at the dangerous offender provision. Bill C-55's dangerous offender provision would give the crown a window of six months after conviction to bring a dangerous offender application based on newly received information. Presently a dangerous offender application must be made at the trial. This new provision does not go far enough in protecting people from dangerous criminals.
As the proposed dangerous offender provision now stands, the crown could find evidence to support a dangerous offender application after the six-month period, but the crown would be unable to bring an application against the criminal because the six-month time period had expired. Consequently, a dangerous offender could still be back in society too soon, still a threat, still causing fear and concern. This provision does not go far enough to protect Canadians and provide them with the safety they seek.
Therefore, Reform proposes that Bill C-55 be amended to allow the crown the right to seek dangerous offender status for persons convicted of crimes causing serious personal harm at any time during that offender's sentence.
To offer Canadians even greater protection from violent criminals, Reform also proposes that Bill C-55 be amended to require the courts to automatically place a dangerous offender finding on any person who commits on two or more separate occasions an offence constituting a serious personal injury offence. I refer to Criminal Code section 752.
Under the present system, the crown has the option to bring a dangerous offender application against a criminal after any number of offences. This Reform amendment would give Canadians greater confidence that all violent criminals would be incarcerated for an indefinite period of time or until that person poses no danger or threat to anyone else.
I want to consider the long term offender provision. The second component of Bill C-55 would create a new class of criminals called long term offenders. These criminals would be supervised by the justice system for up to 10 years after their sentence and the completion of parole. They would be designated long term offenders if it can be determined among other criteria that there is a substantial risk that the offender will reoffend. They must also be convicted of sexual assault, sexual interference, invitation to sexual touching, sexual exploitation, exposure, aggravated sexual assault and sexual assault with a weapon or causing bodily harm.
This provision does not go far enough in protecting society against these very brutal crimes. To help Canadians feel and be safe in their homes, in their neighbourhoods and in their communities, long term offender status must be broadened to apply to a wider range of offences committed by sexual predators or pedophiles.
Reform proposes that Bill C-55 be amended to include under the proposed section 753.1(2) an offence under any of the following provisions of the Criminal Code: householder permitting sexual activity by a child relating to section 171; living off the avails of prostitution by a child, subsection 212(2); obtaining sexual services of a child, subsection 212(4). I could mention a number of other offences but I list these to make the point that Bill C-55 could be amended to go much further in protecting society from persons convicted of sexual crimes.
The third component of Bill C-55 is the judicial restraint provision. This provision would add to the Criminal Code a process that permits provincial attorneys general to apply to a judge when they have reasonable grounds to believe that an individual will commit a serious offence, a violent crime. The judge would have the power to place those individuals under police supervision, prohibit the possession of firearms, ammunition and firearms acquisition certificates and require them to wear electronic bracelets so that their movements can be monitored.
The Canadian people cannot accept this provision of Bill C-55 because it makes the wrong approach in attempting to reduce crime. The judicial restraint provision can be applied to people who have no criminal record or even to people who have been acquitted of any criminal charges.
I believe that greater physical security can be ensured through deterrence but I certainly do not believe that deterring crime means constituting a broad, indiscriminate and unreasonable infringement of a person's right to a fair trial before his peers.
The minister's proposal is tantamount to conviction without trial and Canadians want nothing reminding them of star chamber proceedings in our judicial system. Monitoring innocent people will not reduce crime. In fact, are we not innocent until proven guilty and not guilty until proven innocent?
This is not the first time we have seen such legislation from this justice minister who is so willing to disregard civil liberties. The first instance of his willingness to ignore Magna Carta civil liberties was Bill C-68 calling for universal gun registration. This legislation penalizes law-abiding gun owners and users and could mean the future confiscation of their firearms. This bill also moves against ancient rights preventing unwarranted search and seizure and the right of a person to not give evidence against himself.
Why does the justice minister distrust law-abiding Canadian citizens so much? How can the government punish people for something it cannot prove or punish them for something someone might do in the future? This judicial restraint provision would be a violation of fundamental human rights and would further break down the trust level between government and law-abiding citizens.
When introducing this legislation last month the justice minister told the House: "We are taking steps to prevent crime before it happens". The way to do this is not by monitoring innocent people but by getting tough on criminals who have committed serious violent crimes. This means bring in truth in sentencing for violent, repeat serious offenders. Bring in tougher sentences. By this I mean sentence every criminal who is convicted a second time for a violent crime to life imprisonment without eligibility for early release or parole. Make prison time hard time, no free time, no law libraries, no holiday pay, no fun experiences at all.
The judicial restraint provision of Bill C-55 must only be contemplated in matters where individuals have been convicted for offences under the Criminal Code of Canada. Clause 9 of Bill C-55 which allows for the surveillance of innocent Canadians must be struck in its totality from the bill.
In closing, I want to re-emphasize that the Canadian people are concerned about their physical security. They want criminal justice reform. They want to feel safe in their homes. They want to be safe in their homes. They want their streets free for their children to play safely and they want their communities restored to them without fear.
Bill C-55 does not go far enough in protecting people's basic freedoms and allowing Canadians to experience greater freedom from fear. However, if the amendments I suggest to the dangerous offender, long term offender and judicial restraint provisions were made to Bill C-55, I would not oppose passage of this legislation.