Canadians, in due course, will have the opportunity to pass judgment on the record of the government with respect to criminal law reform.
Over the last three years and many years before that, Canadians have expressed in clear and unequivocal terms their desire for a balanced and just justice system. We have seen over the last number of years a justice system that is unjust, a justice system
that is imbalanced, a justice system that appears to put the rights of criminals and those charged with criminal offences ahead of the rights of victims, families of victims and Canadians generally. Canadians are not happy with the criminal justice system.
What the government has done or what the government has not done, Canadian people will judge. It has had the opportunity over the last three years to bring in some meaningful criminal law reform.
For example, the government has made some progress with respect to the Young Offenders Act but the progress has been limited. It did go far enough. The Young Offenders Act still does not have the support and respect of Canadians. In my view it is an invitation for young people to break the law. It treats 16 and 17 years olds like children. Sixteen and 17 years olds are able to understand the difference between right and wrong. They are able to drive. For all intents and purposes they are adults but for some reason the government insists on treating 16 and 17 year olds like children.
The police across the country, those involved in the criminal justice system, have been crying out for changes to the Young Offenders Act.
What about murder in this country? What about murder and the penalties for murder? A law on the books today allows convicted killers like Clifford Olson, like Paul Bernardo, like Colin Thatcher, like all the other hideous murderers, to apply to be released after serving only 15 years of their sentences. That is unconscionable. That is not what Canadians want.
Canadians want a justice system that reflects their abhorrence at the crime of murder, premeditated first degree murder; the degenerates in our society who believe that they can deliberately take the life of another individual and then only serve 15 years.
I had a bill before Parliament, a bill that has been endorsed by every police association across the country, a bill that was endorsed by every victims' group across this country, a bill that was endorsed and approved by the overwhelming majority of Canadians. This government had a choice. It had an option. It could side with the criminals, it could side with first degree killers, Clifford Olson, Paul Bernardo and others, or it could side with the victims, the families of victims and the overwhelming majority of Canadians.
What route did the government take? Initially my bill to repeal section 745 of the Criminal Code was endorsed in principle. Over 80 Liberal members of Parliament supported that bill. That was the will of this Parliament, the supreme law-making body in this country as far as criminal law is concerned. Over 80 Liberal members of Parliament, including the Minister of National Defence, the minister of Indian affairs and others indicated publicly that they would support the repeal of section 745.
That bill, having received the endorsement of this Parliament, was then sent off to the justice committee. What a farce that was. The committee members rushed the bill through within a matter of hours. Is that a reflection of the government's commitment to consultation? We had mothers of murder victims pleading with the justice committee. Priscilla de Villiers and others came forward. Mothers of murder victims pleaded with members of the justice committee, saying: "Please bring some sanity to our criminal justice system". Those pleas fell on deaf ears.
The Liberal majority on the justice committee decided that they did not care about their constituents. They were not really reflecting the views of their constituents or all the people across the country who want to repeal section 745. Instead they became voting machines again, trained seals.
They were told what to do by the Prime Minister's office. They were reflecting a bleeding heart attitude to the criminal justice system which has caused Canadians to have disrespect for the laws of this country. Instead of truly representing their constituents and staying true to the votes they cast in this House of Commons, they decided to save the Minister of Justice some embarrassment.
The Minister of Justice was listening to a bleeding heart minority in this country that believes convicted first degree killers should have the opportunity to be released after 15 years.
Instead of responding to the wishes of Canadians, this government decided to respond to the wishes of convicted killers. This government decided to perpetuate the injustice in our criminal justice system by simply tinkering with section 745 of the Criminal Code. In so doing, the government not only exhibited an abysmal ignorance of the will of the Canadian public but it called into question the parliamentary system.
The other night the Prime Minister said on television that he was a democrat. He said that he believed in democracy. But democracy spoke in this House in its purest form. Members of Parliament voted to repeal in principle section section 745 of the Criminal Code. Then what did this government do? It used the back door. It manipulated the process. It voted not to report the bill back to this House. What a shame and what a shameless act to circumvent the will of the majority, the will of this House.
Thank goodness, Mr. Speaker, that you in your wisdom decided that was unjust and undemocratic. Now the opportunity rests with this House to bring that bill forward. Government members have the option to change their minds but they would have to reconcile
the votes they cast several years ago to repeal section 745 with their vote today.
They cannot have it both ways. They cannot pretend on a vote to be committed to criminal law reform and the repeal of section 745 and then acquiesce in this House like trained seals, like voting machines. Wake up and smell the coffee, my friends. The people of Canada want changes to the criminal justice system and they want them now. MPs either represents their constituents or they do not. They are either true representatives of the people or they are not.
This is not the time to engage in partisan politics. This is the time to truly represent and bring meaningful changes to the criminal justice system, and here members of Parliament have that opportunity. When they go to seek a further mandate from their constituents they will have to explain to their constituents why they sat on their hands and allowed themselves to be manipulated by backroom boys in the Prime Minister's office when they had a choice. That is what they will have to reconcile.
The repeal of section 745 and criminal law reform are matters that will put this government to the test in terms of its commitment and credibility. On many occasions over the past three years the Prime Minister has invited Canadians to judge his government by the red book. He waved that red book inside and outside of caucus. He said "you judge us based on the red book".
Lest we forget, there is a major chapter in the red book on governing with integrity. That was the commitment the Prime Minister made on tape, on radio and television stations. Each member of Parliament, I included, went out to the people of Canada and said: "Vote for us because we will provide honest government. We will govern with integrity. We promise you that we will not be like Brian Mulroney. We will not engage ourselves in duplicitous governance. We will govern honestly with you, for you in our government".
Their actions with respect to section 745 and my private member's bill would lead one to seriously question the credibility of this government and would challenge Canadians to reflect on the promise to govern with integrity. If they were truly governing with integrity and with honesty they would reflect the wishes of Canadians.
This is not a frivolous matter for Canadians. This is a serious matter. They fear for the lives of their family and children. They want a balanced justice system. It is time government members woke up and realized what Canadians want.
If they are true democrats in the true sense of the word, then they will stand and insist that the bill be brought back to this House and that this House once again pronounce itself. They will have the option either to vote for or against it.
Dare they vote against the repeal of section 745, each and every one of their constituents will be made aware of that. The Canadian Police Association, as we speak, is asking every member of Parliament to indicate what they have done to contribute to the amelioration of the criminal justice system in this country. All members of Parliament should start thinking about what they have done personally, as a member of Parliament, not as part of a voting machine but as an individual member of Parliament, to improve the criminal justice system in this country. Yes, their constituents will judge them, based on the contributions they have made in improving the criminal justice system.
I plead with those members of Parliament who have a genuine interest in criminal law reform to stand up for what they believe in for a change. Stand up for meaningful changes to the criminal justice system so that Canadians can stand proud of their elected representatives.