Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Kootenay—Columbia.
I would like to take all members of the House back to a place in my riding. It is the intersection of Lougheed Highway and Laity Street. If we had been there on Monday morning, February 28, we would have seen a man wandering in a dazed condition, aimlessly it would seem, in a state of disbelief they tell me. It was an accident scene and he was approaching reporters and people standing by wanting information. He was asking for details because earlier that morning he had received a call from the RCMP, that call that we all live in fear of, that said that his 23-year-old son had been killed in a car accident. He went to the scene to see what he could learn.
The investigation later would reveal that at 10 p.m. the night before his son was the passenger in a green Honda Del Sol driven by his 22-year-old friend. This car and a silver sports car were speeding, racing eastbound on Lougheed Highway. Shortly after it went through the intersection at Laity Street, it lost control and swerved to the left into the westbound lane and hit a Ford Taurus station wagon killing the 45-year-old woman who was driving and seriously injuring her passenger. The two young men also died at the scene.
In that moment for many, the world was forever changed. Two young men with goals and dreams, and by all accounts good kids, died in a moment of recklessness leaving behind broken-hearted families and grieving friends, and 17 and 21-year-old sons of the 45-year-old mother. The driver of the silver sports car, who by all accounts stopped, backed up, took a look at the scene, then raced off and has not been seen since. A community is forever changed when it experiences such a tragedy.
Of course we could go to other places as well. In October 2004, in Maple Ridge, there were two racing motorcyclists. One died in a ditch beside the Lougheed Highway. The uninjured rider was given a 15 day driving suspension and had his bike impounded for 48 hours. On November 13, 2000 two street racers killed pedestrian Irene Thorpe and in February 2002 they were sentenced to two years less a day of house arrest. On September 15, 2002, 31-year-old RCMP Constable Jimmy Ng was killed when his cruiser was T-boned by a street racer. The racer received 18 months, and 6 months for leaving the scene of an accident.
There are many other indicators that we could go through indicating that there is a problem. In fact, Chuck Cadman recognized that there was a problem through his private member's Bill C-230, which he introduced in October 2004, and before that Bill C-338 of December 2002 and then reintroduced again in February 2004. That one was actually debated.
There were three main initiatives in his bill. First, to amend the Criminal Code to identify street racing as an aggravating factor during sentencing for the following offences: dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing bodily harm, dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death, criminal negligence causing bodily harm, and criminal negligence causing death.
Second, it called for mandatory driving prohibitions; and third, it had an escalating scale of prohibitions for repeat offenders.
It is interesting as I look back at Hansard to see what the government's response was to Bill C-338, which is remarkably similar to the bill that we are debating today. First of all, the government did not like specifying street racing as an aggravating factor and said it was unnecessary. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice said:
Unless there is some compelling reason to specify that certain circumstances are aggravating, it is better not to multiply the instances where the Criminal Code spells out that a particular way of committing the offence will be an aggravating factor.
—unless we have a strong indication that the courts are not treating street racing as an aggravating factor for these four offences, restraint ought to be exercised in specifying that street racing become an aggravating factor.
The status quo is what he was looking for and the sister of Irene Thorpe might have offered him the compelling reasons he was looking for.
They did not like the idea of prescribed mandatory driving prohibitions. That same parliamentary secretary said:
I think there is logic in the present law, which gives the court discretion on whether to impose a driving prohibition order.
There may be logic, but the problem is what happens in practice. He went on to say:
If a court imposes a long period of imprisonment, the court may believe that there is no need to have the offender prohibited from driving at the point of release from imprisonment, which will be far in the future. In such cases, the offender will have been off the streets and away from the wheel for a very long time.
This argument is like an NHL player who was suspended just before the lockout arguing that he had done his time because he had been off the ice and unable to do any more harm for a very long time. The person he had injured would not see that as justice.
The government has always been against mandatory minimum sentences, even though it points to a few that it has allowed and even claims once in a while that they are working. I heard this argument just yesterday from the Minister of Justice.
It seems to me there are two basic arguments that the Liberals use. One is that they do not work. That is the government's main argument, it seems to me. This is arguable. In fact, if we look at the data, most of the data the Liberals consult comes from across the border and the drug laws that are in place there. They look at the drug use and so on and the measurements by those standards, and say that obviously these mandatory minimum sentences are not working so the idea of mandatory minimum sentences must be a bad idea. The question is not only about whether they work, it is about whether justice is being done. It is not the minister of social work. It is the Minister of Justice.
The Liberals do not like the idea of them because it removes discretion from judges, but it seems to me that that is the whole point. The theory is that if judges are using good judgment, we will only limit them by how harsh they can be. What about judicial trivialization, as I like to call it. If they are just not exercising good judgment and if justice is not being done, then they need to also be limited by how lenient they can be. Of course, they did not like the prescription for repeat offenders.
This brings us to Bill C-65. This bill looks remarkably similar to Bill C-338 which the Liberals opposed a couple of years ago. Bill C-65 is a government bill, so it raises at least two questions: why the change of heart and how is it different in any way from what Mr. Cadman proposed? Let us deal with those briefly.
Why has the government had a change of heart? What has changed since October 2003? We know that the government survived a crucial vote, and a crucial vote in that vote was cast by Mr. Cadman. I believe he did it in good faith based on his principles, but we know the government is not averse to rewarding loyalty, even if it us unintended, and so feels some kind of an obligation. Of course we also know that Mr. Cadman has left us.
The government has said that this bill and Bill C-64, its companion bill, are intended as appropriate tributes to his legacy. I agree with this. I agree that there should be a legacy and a tribute to Mr. Cadman. Our country and our Parliament are poorer places without him. In fact he made many contributions in my own riding. In my own community he used to come and work with our diversion program, talk to young offenders and give up his valuable time to change lives.
Let us go to the second question. How is this different? It now has street racing as an aggravating factor. Yes, that is in it. It has mandatory prohibitions, although the Liberals appear not to like it at other times. They are in here as well, but they did not include the clauses about repeat offenders and I am disappointed by that. Instead of giving us a bill in a form as developed by Mr. Cadman and which I think would have been enthusiastically supported by everybody in this House, the government has neutered the bill.
This is not a fitting tribute to the legacy of Chuck Cadman. While I support what is in it, I am disappointed by what is not in it. There needs to be more. We need to do what is necessary to amend this bill to include the repeat offender clauses, not just because it is what Mr. Cadman and his family would have wanted, but because it makes it better legislation and it is the right thing to do.