Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of Bill C-223.
I congratulate my colleague from Prince George—Peace River for taking a leadership role in this very important issue. Like many of us, he has seen the result of spousal violence and it is a very sad thing indeed.
My colleague has brought this bill forward because this issue is not formalized within the current statutes of the land and therefore, people are falling between the cracks. Furthermore there is not an opportunity for people whose lives are being threatened and whose children's lives potentially are being threatened to be aware of and access this type of program. That is the only reason this bill is being put forth.
If the government is really interested in this as it has expressed today, then members should stand in the House and say they will support and enact the elements of Bill C-223 so that people who are living in fear for their lives will be protected.
The ad hoc situation right now is okay, but it is not entirely acceptable. There is much more that can be done and the bill enables us to do it.
This is an issue of the protection of innocent people. If a spouse is in fear of his or her life, we cannot empathize with the person unless we have been in such a situation to express stark terror.
My colleague who spoke earlier in the House mentioned her friend who travelled all over the world to get away from a spouse who was terrorizing her. Indeed she feared for her life. She had to go to China. She had to go to other parts of the world. She could not use a credit card. She could not even make a phone call back home because there was no way she could be protected in Canada. What a sad reflection on our laws that they cannot protect people and their children who are being subjected to this type of terror.
I also draw attention to an important issue that needs to be told. It is politically incorrect to say so but I think we need to talk about it. I am referring to the fact that spousal violence affects men and women. Clearly there are women who are violated, but there are also men who are violated. It is important to put it in the context of a genderless issue. Spousal violence is wrong regardless of who happens to be on either side. A man or a woman can be a victim and the assaulter can be a man or a woman. We have to bear that in mind so that we establish a series of laws that will be fair regardless of gender and that the issue can be based on the people involved.
I would also like to speak about how we can deal with preventing spousal violence. We do not mention heading it off at the pass. Right now police officers have a very difficult time protecting a person at home who is terrorized and whose life is in danger. Does somebody's jaw need to be broken or does somebody need to be assaulted in an egregious fashion or even killed before the police act? Currently all too often we find that issues of spousal violence are swept under the carpet and that not enough protection is given to the spouse involved.
Shelters exist to protect people, in this case it is usually women, but they are underfunded and there are not enough of them to handle the situation. Furthermore the Reform Party believes that the courts and the system in place now do not do enough to protect that person whose life is terrorized.
I also draw attention to something very exciting that I learned about recently, the issue of victims rights. Premier Harris is often accused of being a conservative person, somebody with whom we would see eye to eye on many principles as a provincial Conservative in Ontario. He is accused of not really caring and being right wing.
The office of the Attorney General of Ontario has set up, with Scott Newark and Sharon Rosenfeldt, the first victims rights element of an attorney general's office in the country. No other province has one and it is possible that no state in the United States has such an organization. Mr. Newark and Ms. Rosenfeldt are out there trying to ensure that victims rights are an integral element in the court system of Ontario.
I hope the government will work with the Attorney General of Ontario and in fact spread that message across the country so that people living in other provinces and territories will have an opportunity to have access to the benefit of what is going on in Ontario. It is very exciting. It will formalize and put victims rights into the courts system so that victims will finally have a place in the system, will have their rights protected, and will have access to the care and treatment they require when they engage in the rehabilitation their souls require after being victimized. It is a very constructive program. I would strongly encourage the government to take a look at it and spread the word to the other provinces.
Another issue raised earlier by one of my colleagues was that of the RCMP. The province of British Columbia has a very serious situation on its hands. Right now there is a severe lack of RCMP officers, as there are in other provinces. This situation will only get a lot worse in the future.
The population of RCMP officers is aging. When we look at the demands placed upon them and our needs in the future, we will have a shortfall far in excess of what we have today. This is a serious situation. How can we hope to be able to enforce the law if we do not have enough police officers out there to do the job?
The solicitor general has spoken about this matter from time to time, but we have not heard any constructive solutions that will enable the RCMP to get the resources or have the numbers in its ranks to do its job. That is not happening now. We would be happy to work with members on the other side to make it a reality for all Canadians.
Another issue I want to talk about is Correctional Service Canada. A serious issue in British Columbia was recently brought to my attention. Because of cost cutting, I would imagine, many or most of the anger management counsellors, psychologists, and such attached to the prisons are being replaced with correctional officers who have one or two weeks of training. Correctional officers do an excellent job, a difficult task at that, but they are not counsellors.
We are cutting our noses off to spite our faces. If we do not allow the penal system to have the anger management counsellors, the psychologists and the drug rehabilitation experts who deal with the people once they are in jail and with those factors that contributed to their coming in front of the judicial system, then those released from jail will be worse off than they when came in. We will be releasing people who have a much higher chance of engaging in another criminal act, only to be put through the courts again. Not only is this utterly expensive, but it is also inhuman to the Canadian public. It is unworkable.
Again I ask the Minister of Justice to work with the solicitor general and to work with their provincial counterparts, particularly those in the province of British Columbia, to make sure that we reverse this trend and that the correctional system will have the capability of hiring those people who are an essential part of the rehabilitation process.
The last issue I would like to address is the issue of organized crime. The Reform Party has been pushing the government for many years to take some immediate and urgent action to deal with organized crime. More than half the crime in the nation is related in some way to organized crime. An example of smuggling people was raised earlier, which is attached to organized crime. In many cases in British Columbia it is attached to Chinese gangs.
We hardly heard anything from the government on the issue of how to deal with organize crime. Again I ask the Minister of Foreign Affairs to work with the Minister of Justice to call together other nations in the world suffering from a similar problem to develop a rules based method and a system of attacking organized criminal syndicates which are multinational in nature.
Also on the issue of crime prevention I bring to the attention of the minister the head start program, which is exceptionally good at preventing crime, and the work of the National Crime Prevention Council.
In closing, I compliment the member for Prince George—Peace River for putting together Bill C-223. Members on the other side mentioned that they were sympathetic toward it. We ask that the government act and act now before more victims show up on our doorstep.