Mr. Speaker, if I remember correctly, the hon. member for Calgary Centre voted in favour of the gun control legislation that this government proposed. I am surprised he is talking from the opposing side about it right now.
There is no question that all members in the House support services to victims and better treatment for victims within the criminal justice system.
I have been involved in a judicial agency, Youth in Conflict with the Law in the Waterloo region. I was involved with a whole series of organizations that dealt with offenders, the community and victims. There is no question as we examine the various programs that are offered in the country that Quebec is very much a leader in the area of criminal justice reform as well as dealing with victims of crime.
When I first became involved in working with offenders in the early seventies it became very clear that for the rehabilitation of young offenders, they would have to face up to their actions. They would have to make contact, where possible, with the people that they victimized and they would have to make restitution.
We have a number of programs in my community. We have pioneered many programs related to the judicial system in the Waterloo region. One of the programs that we pioneered was Youth in Conflict with the Law, working with young offenders.
Another program we pioneered was Kitchener House, a halfway house, so when people were being released from provincial institutions they would be eased into the community. The John Howard Society was active in our community and the Mennonite Central Committee started up the first victim offender reconciliation program back in the seventies. That is where the victim and the offender come together. When they are younger individuals it impresses on them the seriousness of their acts and the fact that there is a person involved who is hurt. From the victim's perspective, in many cases it helps them demystify who the offender is. We try to work out some compensation, fiscal and voluntary, that the offender can make to compensate the victim.
We also recognized that victim services needed to be present within the police department. When victims were going to the courts and facing the trauma that victims face, people would be assisting them and explaining to them how the judicial system, which can be a very complex system, works.
There was also a group which initially got involved because of a sentence handed down to a sexual offender. A grandfather had sexually abused his granddaughter and they felt the grandfather got an inappropriately low sentence. The group started out calling themselves citizens concerned with crimes against children. Initially it was a lobby group reacting against the sentence. The next thing it had become involved in victim services in the community working with children, doing a lot of prevention work. Its members are always ready to respond in case help is needed, be it from the police or from other family members, but they were always there to assist the victim.
One of the troublesome aspects of the present state of affairs in the criminal justice system is we do not do enough to re-examine the way we deal with crime. In many cases we are following a knee-jerk approach, an approach that is being driven by the rhetoric of members of the Reform Party.
We get into a mindset that says we should try to deal with crime in a "lock them up, throw away the key" approach. In my community the victim services program for the police which we pioneered and which was supported by the provincial government, under the Harris government has been cut, slashed. That is for victims' rights. They are the kissing cousins of the Reform Party.
The program for husbands who abuse their spouses, run by the John Howard Society, was slashed to the bone. This program was to stop people from reoffending and to stop further victimization.
The sexual assault program, where community justice initiatives deal with victims of sexual assault, children and otherwise, was slashed by the provincial government. That concerns victims.
The biggest problem is we tend to ape and the rhetoric of the Reform Party apes what is happening in the United States in terms of crime and crime prevention. There is no worse model that we can possibly follow. The Europeans have shown much more effective ways of dealing with offenders which in turn makes the cost of the justice system cheaper and in turn allows funding for victims' services.
The tragedy is that there is not enough funding for victims' services because we are misspending it in the criminal justice system. At the present rate of sentencing it is expected that the population of prisons will increase by 50 per cent over the next five years. What a waste of money when keeping a person in prison costs $50,000 a year.
Let us be very clear when I am talking about people in prison and the justice system, I am talking about people who are property offenders, non-violent offenders, people who could be handled much cheaper in the community, be it through community service, or restitution or probation.
The climate that has been created is that away too much money is being thrown into the imprisonment area and we are doing precious little in the justice area.
I recommend to the members of the Reform Party that they look at the work of the crime community safety council. They might even go back to March 1993 when Mr. Horner, a former RCMP officer, a Progressive Conservative and the head of the justice committee, came up with a unanimous all-party recommendation in a report which would have dramatically shifted the way in which we dealt with the criminal justice system. It would have led to more community prevention and more work with victims.
If there is a problem in our system now, it is that we have not followed up on the recommendations of the Horner commission and the justice committee on this issue. There are many cases in that report of shifting resources to victims, to crime prevention and community safety. There is a rethinking of the way Canadians should deal with the whole issue of crime.
There is no question that in many cases victims have been ignored. I have worked in the system since the early 1970s and it breaks my heart to see victim programs in my community being slashed by the Progressive Conservative government in the province of Ontario. It is the ideological kissing cousin of the Reform Party.
I accept that Reformers are being sincere in what they are trying to do. Please take a look at the justice committee report by Mr. Horner. Look at the cry from police across this country that there has to be a better, more effective way. Let us look to the European models and not to the United States. We know the American system does not work.