Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to speak on the victims' bill of rights motion that my hon. colleague is putting forward. It is long overdue.
This all started back in 1983-84 when the Liberal justice minister of the day said that Canadian justice was going to move away from making the victim its primary responsibility and move toward the convicted as their primary responsibility.
This has had a fundamental effect on the mindset of the justice system over the last 13 years. As a result Reform members have had to put forward legislation along the lines of that which my colleague is putting forward, a victims' bill of right. Why? Because the victims of this country have had their rights abrogated by a judicial system whose interest should be to protect them first and foremost. That is no longer the case. Countless numbers of victims have had their rights subjugated to the rights of the convicted.
Here are some pathetic examples. Imagine if you will you are person who has been raped. You have no rights whatsoever under the current justice system to know the health status of the person who raped you. You have no rights to know if he is HIV positive. You have no rights to know if he is carrying sexually transmitted diseases like gonorrhoea, chlamydia and hepatitis. Those rights do not exist. This is one of the things that my colleague and we in the Reform Party wish to change.
Imagine if you will that your child has been violated by a pedophile or that a loved one of yours has been raped. Currently that rapist or pedophile can come an live right next door to you if he so chooses. That can happen. Do the victims have a right to know about this? No, they do not.
In my riding I have had a situation where a serial pedophile who raped and violated little children more than 1,000 times came to live in the neighbourhood of its victims. These victims were absolutely beside themselves with fear and abject terror.
Why do we not have a justice system which protects these individuals from having to endure a situation of terror and fear after they have already been violated by an individual? That is fundamentally wrong and bespeaks poorly of a justice system that is meant to protect these individuals.
It is fundamental that these victims have the right to know where and when the people who perpetrated these violations on them will be and where they will live and their whereabouts. As we all know, there is no treatment for violent sexual predators. There are many attempts but there is no effective treatment. Therefore victims have a right to know where these individuals are.
The third is victims' impact statements. It must be the right of the victim to give a victim impact statement orally or in writing if they so choose. It is not a choice but it should be their right to have this. The courts must understand what it was like for that person to endure the crime perpetrated on them.
Fifth, the victim must understand what is happening in the court proceedings. They must understand what is being plea bargained away, why it is being plea bargained away, and what deals are being made between the crown and the accused's defence. It is very important for the peace of mind of the victims that they understand the whole process taking place if they are to feel justice is being done.
Sixth, it is very important that we err on the side of the protection of the individual in society at large. We have to move away from what we have said before, that the convicted will have our primary focus. The victim must be the primary responsibility of the justice system. That is simply not the case now.
I will give a true life example. There was a young boy in my riding. He was a handicapped child who could not mobilize very well. He was 13 years old. He was sexually assaulted by an 18-year old boy. He was raped. The court case took place. The 18-year old was charged and convicted. The convicted 18-year old turn around and said "I'm a victim because of things that happened in my past". That may be so.
What happened was that the child who was raped did not have anywhere near the counselling, the care and the attention from our justice system and health professionals he needed. The convicted had many times the amount of money in support than the victim. The convicted had the primary focus of the justice system whereas the victim was forgotten. This bespeaks of a justice system that
does not fulfil its fundamental role, which is the protection of society and its members.
It is true that many people who commit offences, who are incarcerated in our prisons have had very serious and very sad lives. Their early childhood development has been riddled with with a great number of tragic and unbelievably terrible things. This is very common. However, one's history does not exonerate one from committing criminal acts today. We can understand what they have done but it does not exonerate them or excuse them from committing those acts.
Therefore we have to take a multilevel approach. We have to protect the victim, as my hon. colleague mentioned so eloquently in his speeches and in his victim's impact statement, which I encourage every member of the House to get a copy of before they vote on it. I also encourage every member to look at new ways we can address the precursors and ask ourselves why these individuals commit these offences.
Many of these individuals have grown up in terrible family situations. We must deal with these situations early on. Children in environments where they are being beaten up and sexually abused are not being given the necessities to build up the basic pillars of a normal psyche. Where those things are absent we must collectively deal with the families to help the children. If the children do not have the pillars of a normal psyche they will grow up to be adults without the pillars of a normal psyche. That will manifest itself in conduct disorders in adolescence and in criminal behaviour in adulthood.
These things can be done without spending money. In the United States some interesting experiments have been conducted. They have looked at inner city school boards where there is a high degree of violence, drop out rates, teen pregnancy and criminal behaviour. They brought the children into the schools very early on, at the age of five or six. Not only did they teach the children their A, B, Cs, they taught the children what appropriate conflict resolution was and what drugs were all about. They learned about self-respect and having respect for others. These are normal pillars of a normal psyche which we all require to function in a caring and functional society.
These are things which the justice system ought to take a look at in conjunction with provincial counterparts, as the Liberal member mentioned. We must work with provincial governments and education departments, which are an integral factor, in addressing these problems to put an end to conduct disorders and violent and criminal behaviour.
It is incumbent on all of us as legislators to put first and foremost the rights of innocent victims in our justice system. The convicted must be taken care of as well, but our primary responsibility is to the victims who through no fault of their own have been violated.
I encourage every member of the House to vote for the victims' bill of rights presented by the hon. member for Fraser Valley West. They will be doing it for themselves, their children and, most important, for Canadians from coast to coast.