Mr. Speaker, for those watching the debates in the House of Commons this morning I would like to once again say that this morning we are engaging in debate and comment on the government's speech from the throne which was presented nearly a year ago but which comes up on the Order Paper from time to time.
The speech from the throne was about 13 pages and dealt with a number of areas where the government made representations to
Canadian citizens that it would deal with those areas and how it would deal, what measures it would put into place.
I would like to use my time this morning to address the area of justice and public safety and how it was dealt with in the speech from the throne. I would also like to make some comments where I believe and we believe this country needs to be going in this important area.
The speech from the throne dealt with the area of justice with one short paragraph of 7 lines in a 13 page document. I hope that does not indicate to Canadians the emphasis, importance and priority this government places on public safety.
However, in those seven lines we find very little substance and no specifics at all. These seven lines deal with the non-violent character of our country, stating that because our country is non-violent citizens are secure. I guess the government has not been looking at some of the recent trends in crime. In fact, violent crime has tripled since 1962. Crimes against property have skyrocketed during the same period. Violent crimes, most disturbingly, by young offenders have increased 244 per cent from 1980 to 1993 alone.
Statistics Canada, which is an arm of the government itself, estimates that fully 90 per cent of sexual assaults are not reported, that 68 per cent of other assaults are not reported and 53 per cent of robberies are not reported.
When we talk to Canadians across the country as elected representatives it becomes increasingly clear that Canadians no longer feel secure in what the government is pleased to term the non-violent character of our country.
We do need to get serious and take a serious look at measures that can provide safe homes and safe streets for the citizens of this country.
The government is trying to find ways to keep people out of prison and out of contact with the justice system. I would suggest that whatever measures are being put in place are not effective. It talks about reforming criminal procedures to better serve the victims of crimes. That is a goal I think all Canadians would agree with. Unfortunately, the Liberal record does not square with that very laudable goal.
In fact, if we look at the major bills that have been introduced by this government we see some very disturbing trends that continue to emphasize the rights and considerations being given to criminals and law breakers instead of really looking at how victims can be given a greater standing and consideration in the justice system.
If we look at five of the major bills that have been put forward in the justice area by the justice minister, I think we need to very
quickly assess the efficiency and effectiveness with which government has kept promises to Canadians made in the throne speech.
First there was Bill C-41 which purported to deal with hate crimes and put more emphasis on what was in the mind of the perpetrator of a crime, the criminal, rather than the effect on the victim. We say that assault is equally wrong regardless of who was assaulted or for what reason. If someone beats a person up it hurts. They need to have redress. There needs to be protection. This emphasis on what was in the mind of the criminal surely is of no comfort or help to Canadians whose rights and safety have been breached.
We then have Bill C-45 which again continued to leave in place a provision of the Criminal Code which allows a cold blooded murderer to be let back out on the streets after serving only 15 years of his or her sentence. In fact, the sentence that is handed down for premeditated, cold blooded murder is life in prison. However, after only 15 years murderers can apply to have early parole and are very often successful when they do apply. Again we see that victims of crime, their families and friends come second to the extra considerations that are given to murderers.
Bill C-53 dealt with temporary passes from prison. It quadrupled the time that criminals could be absent from prison. One person described the bill as giving criminals an opportunity to apply for a two month vacation from prison for whatever reason, for example shopping trips. In some cases individuals who are out of custody have committed further crimes.
Bill C-55 is the government's centrepiece legislation to deal with violent offenders and to get tougher with them. Unfortunately there are many flaws in the bill which have been debated in the House at some length. Violent offenders will still be released back into society with only minimal supervision.
In addition, Bill C-55 includes a rather bizarre and very troubling provision. Citizens who have been neither charged nor convicted of any criminal offence can be monitored electronically. Once again we have a government that shies away from strong measures to protect society while it allows for more government intrusiveness into the lives of law-abiding citizens who have not been convicted of any law breaking activities.
We had the same problem with Bill C-68, the so-called gun control bill. It controls law-abiding citizens while it does little or nothing to stem the tide and the growing use of illegally obtained firearms.
In spite of the nice words in the seven lines of the throne speech about public safety, the government's record is dismal.
It is not right to criticize measures unless good alternatives can be proposed, which is why I am pleased to put before the House the Reform Party's measures to increase public safety, to ensure the safety of our families and communities in this country.
We would first enact a victims bill of rights. We have provisions for such a bill which have already been put before the House. We have urged the government to enact those provisions. Victims, innocent citizens, law-abiding citizens of this country should get the top consideration. However, the Liberal government has quite a different philosophy on public safety.
In 1971 the Liberal solicitor general stood up in this very House and said: "We are going to put the rehabilitation of individuals ahead of the protection of society". That philosophy is continued in present Liberal bills. Victims are second and criminal rights and considerations are first. Canadians are tired of that. They want a whole shift. They want the justice system changed so that the protection of society, the protection of law-abiding innocent citizens, is number one. That is exactly what should be done.
We would repeal the universal firearms registry enacted by this government and replace it with meaningful laws to control guns and to fight the criminal use of firearms.
We would replace the Young Offenders Act. As we are all aware, in the past 20 to 25 years youth crime has shyrocketed. It is a very troubling aspect of our society. Young people themselves are the greatest victims of this increase in youth crime. Many young Canadians do not feel safe in our schools and communities. We can see examples of this over and over again. Something needs to be done about this. We need to deal with this issue seriously and the Reform Party is proposing measures to do that. We believe that young criminals must be held accountable for their actions in this society.
We would also reform the parole system and abolish the early release of first degree murderers. We would also pave the way for a national referendum on the return of capital punishment. Many citizens are concerned that there is not a strong enough signal being sent to law breakers in this country, particularly to cold blooded murderers, that we will not tolerate that kind of victimization of innocent members of our society.
We need to look at the specifics of how the past approaches to justice measures have been ineffective in protecting our society. In 1991 Brian Mulroney's Conservative government introduced new gun control measures. At that time the auditor general criticized those measures because they lacked the necessary background data or evaluation process to really show whether there would be any potential benefits for such legislation. In other words, when measures are put into place by governments, they should have some objective criteria to measure how effective those measures
are going to be in light of the cost and in light of the fact that we are dealing with the lives, property and freedoms of our citizens.
To compound what was already a flawed process, in 1995 this Liberal justice minister introduced Bill C-68. This bill put into place a universal firearms registry that included shotguns and rifles. Of course the registration of handguns has been in place for over 60 years.
The majority of the federal Tory senators who had put the 1991 measures into place supported Bill C-68. Their leader, the member for Sherbrooke, did not show up for the vote on this measure in the House of Commons.
We in the Reform Party were the only ones who actively opposed the registration of shotguns and rifles. We have done so consistently. It is very clear to us that this universal firearms registry will squander already scarce law enforcement resources, time and money. Our law enforcement officers will now spend incredibly more time shuffling paper instead of fighting real crime.
Our opposition to this registry should not be interpreted as being anti-gun control. Every citizen in this country and certainly myself and other members of my caucus believe we must control the criminal use of firearms which threaten the safety of our streets and of our citizens. We have a very tough zero tolerance policy for criminal offences involving firearms.
The waste of money and resources involved in a universal registry for law-abiding citizens is something we oppose. We believe in the long term it will only hurt our goal of public safety which is the goal of our citizens. We want to see that goal reached in effective ways, not in the ways this government has brought in.
The prison system as well needs to be looked at. We have some proposals to make it a more effective instrument of both rehabilitation and deterrence. In most Canadian prisons for example inmates are not required to work. They are also provided with taxpayer funded amenities which many of our citizens cannot hope to enjoy.
This week my colleague from Fraser Valley West mentioned an older couple in his riding. The wife is in dire need of dental treatment. They were unable to save the amount necessary for the wife to get that treatment. Yet criminals are given such treatment routinely at no cost to them. Something is wrong with that picture.
At some correctional facilities inmates even have access to golf courses, pool tables, cable television and extensive workout equipment. They qualify for free counselling, full medical and dental coverage, free university education and legal aid.
Many young people in our country are worried about whether they will be able to afford the necessary training and university education in order to have secure jobs and a good future. Tuition fees are rising and student loan burdens for graduates are growing. We therefore have to look at the priorities of a government which provides those kinds of free services to law breakers.
In Canada inmates even have the right to vote. These people have flouted the law. They have victimized law-abiding innocent people in our society. They still have all the rights and privileges of citizenship. They even have amenities and services which taxpaying law-abiding citizens cannot afford. Something needs to be done about this.
With respect to the Young Offenders Act, youth account for more robberies than those in the next two older age groups. In 1991 youth were charged with a full 18,000 violent offences, twice as much as five years ago. In fact, violent crime by young offenders increased in all categories between 1986 and 1994. Homicide was up 36 per cent. Sexual assault was up 16 per cent. Aggravated assault was up 78 per cent. Robbery was up a whopping 131 per cent. We need to seriously address this problem.
The Reform Party would replace the ineffective Young Offenders Act with measures which would truly hold young people accountable for crime. It is a small minority of youth. Most of the youth are upstanding citizens working hard to build a future for themselves and to gain the skills necessary to have a strong future. They should not be put to shame by the small minority which flouts the law virtually without consequence.
The key to crime prevention is to strengthen families and communities rather than to rely exclusively on the judicial, parole and prison systems. When it comes to young offenders this means supporting the introduction of programs for the early detection and prevention of youth crime and the introduction of more effective rehabilitation measures and measures to support education and literacy, skills training, discipline and community service.
We would also shift the balance from the rights of the accused to the rights of the victim and law-abiding citizens. As I said, we would replace the Young Offenders Act. We would redefine young offenders as 10 to 15 years of age. We would also permit the publication of names of all convicted violent young offenders. Serious offenders 14 to 15 years of age or any offender over 16 would be tried in adult court.
A Reform government would repeal section 745 of the Criminal Code which allows for the early release of first degree murderers. We would also ensure that violent offenders served their entire sentence, that repeat violent offenders would be declared dangerous offenders and that all parole would be tightly monitored and earned.
These are measures which Canadians are asking for. They are common sense measures. They are designed to send a clear signal to law breakers that we will not tolerate the violation of the rights of innocent citizens. I urge the government to replace the vague
seven line paragraph in the throne speech with some of these real effective measures which the Reform Party is proposing.