Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to take part in the debate on this motion. It asks the government to direct the Standing Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs to draft a victims' bill of rights. If the committee determines a right to be a provincial concern, the Minister of Justice would have to initiate consultations to establish a national standard.
The Bloc cannot join the Reform Party in supporting this motion, and I will explain why. However, I would first like to make it very clear that the Bloc Quebecois supports the protection and compensation of victims of criminal acts. This is basic, as my colleague for Portneuf pointed out. However, victim compensation is clearly a matter for the provinces, and the federal government has no reason to get involved in this area of provincial jurisdiction.
This right is a matter for provincial administration of justice. In fact, this cannot be a matter of federal criminal law under section 91(27) of the Constitution Act. It in fact comes under provincial property and civil rights under section 92(13) of the Constitution. I think this is clear.
Therefore national standards in this area would be a flagrant encroachment on areas of exclusive provincial jurisdiction. Twice the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, the court of final appeal before its abolition in 1949, recognized the jurisdiction of the provinces over matters of victim compensation.
First, in 1920, in the matter of the Canadian Pacific and the British Columbia Workmen's Compensation Board, the Privy Council recognized that, in the case of victim compensation, even if the company involved were under federal jurisdiction, section 92(13) of the Constitution Act applied. This too is clear. The court concluded that the laws of British Columbia applied in the case of victim compensation.
In another ruling in 1937, in the Reference on Unemployment Insurance , the Privy Council reaffirmed exclusive provincial jurisdiction over compensation of victims. Clearly, from these rulings, compensation of victims is a provincial matter. Accordingly the motion by the Reform Party directly contravenes their party policy, which advocates greater decentralization of the federal system and full respect of exclusive provincial jurisdiction.
It is surprising as well to see the Reform Party defending victims' rights, when it voted against the bill on gun registration.
The Bloc believes that prevention is the best way to protect victims. In other words, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, as everybody knows.
With its contradictory positions, the Reform Party is revealing the inconsistency of its policy on crime.
You cannot properly defend the rights of victims when you refuse to prevent crime by voting against the mandatory registration of guns, a measure aimed at preventing an increase in violent crime.
Another reason this motion must be rejected has to do with the throne speech. Following the throne speech, the Liberal government made a commitment to stop spending and encroaching on areas under the jurisdiction of the provinces without their approval. Accordingly, before the Standing Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs is asked to consider the matter, the approval of the provinces would have to be sought. It would in all likelihood be denied by most of them.
Quebec is the leader with its Crime Victims Compensation Act. This legislation provides for a plan to compensate injured victims of crimes. Compensation is also provided for families of individuals killed. This legislation does not prevent civil law suits against an assailant for material damages or bodily harm.
This act fully meets the necessary objective of compensating the victims of criminal acts, especially since claims for compensation are examined by a commission which will ensure that the amount of compensation awarded is sufficient, fair and equitable.
The provinces have no need of the federal level to administer areas over which they have exclusive jurisdiction, particularly since Quebec's legislation on the treatment of offenders and victims is far more open and far less repressive than elsewhere in Canada. But when there is a desire to impose national standards, not only must the areas in which the standards are to be imposed come under federal jurisdiction, but also the government must have the necessary funds to invest in the undertaking.
At the present time, the federal government no longer has the financial capacity to invest in encroaching on areas of provincial jurisdiction. On the contrary, the financial hole the future generations will have to get themselves out of is due, in large part, to the massive federal invasion of areas that are the exclusive jurisdiction of the provinces.
The federal government has used its financial clout to impose national standards on the provinces by sharing program costs. This centralizing trend is running down at this time, simply because of the financial irresponsibility of the federal government, which has sought to add to its power by thumbing its nose at the division of powers imposed by the Canadian Constitution.
In conclusion, it is clear that the federal government has no place in the area of victim compensation. Federal invasion of this area would constitute an unacceptable encroachment into provincial jurisdictions and would run directly counter to the Liberal government's promises in the throne speech.