Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to speak on the motion concerning victims' rights tendered by the member for Fraser Valley West. I urge the Minister of Justice to create a national standard for victims of crime.
We are calling for a fundamental change in the operation of the Criminal Code. It is a natural evolution of the movement for justice system accountability and a re-examination of the primary operational goals of the criminal justice system in Canada. Victims have a right to be informed of their rights at every stage of the justice process, including those rights involving compensation from the offender. They must also be made aware of any victim services available.
On February 29 of this year, my colleague organized a victims' rights rally in Abbotsford, British Columbia. As I surveyed the faces in the crowd, I felt a visceral response from them, an urgent dissatisfaction with Canada's institutional response to crime and how we as society handle offenders in comparison with those innocents who are left in the offender's wake. It is clear to me that the way the criminal justice operations work does not represent mainstream Canadian values.
Constituents of mine from New Westminster-Burnaby have written to the Minister of Justice. They have submitted petitions which I have dutifully presented to the government in the House. Sadly, the Prime Minister and the Minister of Justice do not seem to feel the same deep sense of wrong and urgency, to make the order of fundamental change that is required to assuage the community and respond to Canada's sense of what is right.
What is required is a basic rebuilding of the justice system from its fundamental pillars. Central to that change must be that the system must no longer be so offender focused. That is the old agenda of the system defenders, the Liberals and Conservatives who gave us the justice system we have today. The community is demanding that system changers come forward who have an openness to rethink and remake our response to crime.
This past while I have had the privilege of introducing several private member's bills in the House. They arise from my longstanding sensitivity to victims' issues. The message of victims has not been self-centred or full of retribution or revenge. Their concern is a search for meaning of their circumstance and a hope that changes will arise to prevent others from needlessly going through what they have experienced, that mostly came from the justice system itself, while they were in the midst of their pain and loss.
As a former officer of the court, I have heard many stories from victims. I have observed firsthand how the labyrinthine system operates and how the disconnected parts work in their compartments without a unifying mission or a mandate.
I made a promise to my constituents that I would try, among other things, to make a difference in the way victims of crime are treated, the way they are regarded and how they are positioned in law. It is time to move beyond community volunteer programs, as important as they may be, and write into the law the position of the victim from the beginning to the end.
On March 27 of this year I introduced private member's Bill C-247. I had received complaints that some persons were causing public disturbances and destroying an important part of community living, the places enjoyed by families. The victims in this case are the local communities across the country, especially for the liveability for young children. What is frustrating is that those causing the public disturbance, causing mothers to hang on to their children tightly as they pass them by and having merchants experience the social life of commerce turned into a danger zone, that these perpetrators are not controlled.
We are well aware that our local shopping malls, community centres, sports arenas and libraries are popular hangouts for youths who want to be rather negative. In particular, the most popular spot to hang out in a mall is in the food court where the action is of people traffic.
If the problem ensues and the mall security guard is forced to remove a person, a little known fact is that the person being removed is permitted by law to re-enter immediately, provided there is no resistance in the removal and no charge develops. There is nothing that the security guard can do but to continue to ask the person to leave.
Why do we have such a loophole in the Criminal Code? It is because the community as victim in this situation is not regarded as highly as the nuisance-maker and show off, the destroyer of community peace and order.
The property owner is being victimized because the Criminal Code is full of holes, the same holes that the Minister of Justice says do not exist.
In my riding, the New Westminster police have a storefront office in the Westminster Mall as part of their community policing program. Members of the force have told me that their hands are tied in such a situation. They cannot do a thing unless the Criminal Code is changed.
Every town in this country daily struggles with public order and millions are spent for security guards and monitoring systems
because the local community, as a victim, is not important to the government. My small bill on this matter will solve the problem for communities in that situation.
When Reform members bring forward private members' bills they are serious attempts, not media stunts. We want to make Canada a safer place in which to live. We want people to have the ability to walk the streets in safety. We want Canadians to know that their rights are being respected. Most importantly, we want to ensure that victims of crime do not become pushed to the sidelines and receive little help while the perpetrator receives most of the resources of government help.
In the previous session of this Parliament, I introduced Bill C-323, an act to amend the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act (order of discharge). The way the act currently stands, an offender can be released from having to pay any damages arising from assault, awarded in a civil lawsuit, if the offender claims bankruptcy.
When my Bill C-323 was before the House for second reading debate on December 8, 1996, government members were very supportive of my amendments to the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act and indicated so in their speeches.
The member for Lambtom-Middlesex stated: "This is an excellent amendment. I commend the hon. member for New Westminster-Burnaby for it. I would like to see the same principle applied to all categories listed in section 178, not just the assault cases".
The member for Nickel Belt stated: "This legislation is a clear example of a good idea whose time has come. We all know that the hon. member for New Westminster-Burnaby has hit upon an excellent idea and a worthy amendment and we all want to see it incorporated in the law as soon as possible".
Finally, the member for Durham stated: "The bill presented by the member is a good one and deserves the support of the House. I would be happy to support the member in that initiative".
The words of these members are encouraging and I hope I will be able to count on their votes when my amendment is raised in the industry committee.
Today's motion is to implement a victims' bill of rights. That is really no different in principle from moving an amendment to the bankruptcy act. Both would assist victims and both would make Canada a safer place to live.
If Liberal members chose to vote against today's motion or work to dilute it, they will be telling their constituents that victims' rights are not paramount. For I assert that the notion of equal balance between victim and offender is a mistaken one and is not supported by Canadians.
A victims' bill of rights is a good way to begin the process of the hundreds of adjustments to the system that need to be made at all levels of government so there develops a unifying theme around which the justice system can operate. Peace and community order, protecting it and restoring it on behalf of victims can be a unifying theme.
Those who are in conflict with society and affected by sanctions of the Criminal Code can be offered paths to community restoration by fulfilling the obligations of punishment in all its complexity.
I recommend a thoughtful reflection of the deeper philosophical implications of what is being brought to the House by this motion. Let there be light. Let there be some insight. The light shines in the darkness and darkness comprehends it not. May light overcome the darkness and may we become more positive system changers instead of remaining mere system defenders.
Canadians deserve better than our current justice system and today's motion is the place to start.