Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate this morning on Bill C-55 which deals with high risk offenders. In preparing to do so I was struck with the fact that if we had tougher laws and if we had dealt more seriously with violent offenders earlier, many of them would not be in the position they are in today.
While Bill C-55 has some improvements, it is really a half-hearted response to the demands of the Canadian people for tougher action on criminals. When I hear the response of the government about its concern for legislation that will pass the charter, it is saying there is more concern in that area than there is for the safety of Canadians.
I know the government has to be aware of the consequences of any legislation but nevertheless the message that is going out is that it is giving the benefit of the doubt to criminals rather than to law-abiding citizens. That is the environment or the thinking that is evident on the other side when it is preparing legislation to deal with changes to the criminal justice system.
This is a major concern of Canadians. Next to unemployment, Canadians are concerned about safety in their homes, in their streets and in their communities.
I recall in my home city of Barrie during the 1993 election campaign that three residents in my community were murdered. The impact that it had back then was very significant. As a matter of fact, an accused is now just being brought to trial. That reinforced the fear that exists not only in my community but all across Ontario and Canada for the safety of law-abiding citizens.
The government is failing in what is a major responsibility to our people, that of protecting the life and property of law-abiding citizens. Should these citizens ever become victims they discover to their horror that they are failed again. They discover the difference between their rights and the victim's rights. I applaud my colleague from Fraser Valley West who has put forward his private member's bill dealing with the rights of victims, something that is long overdue.
Earlier I said that this bill was a half-hearted response by the government to deal severely with violent offenders. If we want to look at a half-hearted response I do not think there is any better example than Bill C-45. It dealt with violent people in our communities. The lack of commitment to deal with violence is shown in that bill, which is really the bill that introduced two-tier killers. If you are convicted of first degree murder of one person you are eligible for parole but if you kill more than one person you are not. That is not what Canadians are looking for. If you take a life, whether it is one life or more, you should do your full sentence of 25 years.
It raises the question: Who do we work for? Are we here in the House of Commons to represent our voters? Reformers are. We are here to represent our voters. We ask our voters questions and we listen to what our voters say.
I want to share the voice of my riding of Simcoe Centre. I want to share the responses to the householders I have sent out with questionnaires dealing specifically with the criminal justice system. The first was a survey dealing with section 745 of the Criminal Code, the faint hope clause. I did this survey in the spring of 1995. Section 745 of the Criminal Code allows convicted first degree murderers to apply for early release after serving only 15
years of their life sentence. I asked: Do you believe this section should be eliminated? Of the 1,645 who responded, 85 per cent said yes it should be removed, 9 per cent said no and 6 per cent were undecided.
On the question of capital punishment, in the fall of 1995 I asked: Do you support the holding of a binding national referendum on capital punishment? From almost 1,600 respondents, 78 per cent said yes, 15 per cent said no and 7 per cent were undecided.
In the spring of 1995 I asked my constituents about Bill C-68 and gun control. I asked: Where should the primary emphasis in new legislation be placed? The use of firearms in criminal acts and firearms smuggling or additional restrictions on legal gun owners? Of the responses to that survey 87 per cent said that the primary emphasis should be on firearms used in criminal acts and firearms smuggling and only 4 per cent said there should be additional restrictions on legal gun owners. There were 1,645 responses to that survey.
The last question dealing with criminal justice was on the Young Offenders Act. That was in the fall of 1994. The question I asked was: "Do you believe the Young Offenders Act should be changed to ensure more adequate punishment of young offenders?" There were 2,200 responses to that survey. Ninety-seven per cent said yes, 2 per cent said no, and 1 per cent was undecided.
The responses to the four questions I just outlined clearly demonstrate the constituents of the riding of Simcoe Centre want us to get tougher with criminals, particularly violent criminals in society.
Let us take a look at each of the issues and the overwhelming support that is evident in my riding. Section 745 is the faint hope clause dealing with first degree murderers. There was a murder in my riding. A young father by the name of Kaplinski was murdered by Kinsella and Sales. I talked to the family. When we talk to the families of victims we understand how tragic it is when they have to relive the horror of the murder at a section 745 hearing.
My riding is very much in tune with what Canadians from coast to coast want when it comes to capital punishment. I understand that 76 per cent of Canadians support capital punishment. In Simcoe Centre it is 78 per cent.
With Bill C-55 Bernardo will still be eligible for a hearing.
We had the gun control bill. The problem with the bill is that it gave us a false sense of security. Many in society think it is the answer to making their homes and streets safer, but it is not.
Where are the government's priorities when it would spend up to $400 million for gun control to supposedly make society safer for women and only spend $4 million on breast cancer?
Then we have the Young Offenders Act. The grandmother of Sylvain Leduc visited Ottawa last week. He was murdered by young offenders who showed no remorse. There was no apology. There will be no deterrent and these young people will go on to a life of crime.
Whenever groups of school children from my riding visit Ottawa I meet with them. Many of these school children are victims of young offenders. I asked them for a show of hands on what they think about the changes we are proposing such as lowering the age and identifying the young offenders. The majority of them said we should be lowering the age and we should be identifying the violent young offenders in our communities. Even our young people feel that we should be getting tougher with young offenders.
We would like to see Bill C-55 strengthened with two strikes and you are out. We do not believe violent offenders should have an unlimited ability to reoffend. We should be able to designate someone as a dangerous offender at any time during the sentence. We should not be restricted to a six-month period. We should broaden the definition of dangerous offenders to include pedophiles and sexual predators.
Canadians will have an opportunity in a few weeks to voice their concerns about the government's lack of desire to deal in a serious way with what is a major problem for Canadians not just in my riding but right across Canada. They want violent offenders to be held responsible for their actions, particularly young offenders. If we dealt with them in a more responsible way they would not go on to a life of crime.
Their day is coming. It is only weeks away. It will be a major issue in the election campaign. I am looking forward to Canadians voicing their support for the only party that has a platform to get tough with violent criminals.