Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure today to speak to Bill C-65 on behalf of my constituents of Fundy Royal.
Unfortunately the bill is held out to be an adoption of Mr. Chuck Cadman's previous private member's bills, Bill C-338 and Bill C-230, which he had been trying for years to get through the House. They were common sense legislation that would protect Canadians and innocent bystanders and make our streets safer for everyone.
However, in typical Liberal fashion, the government dragged its heels for too long, and now, insultingly, once again it is offering too little too late.
From the outset, I would like to state that this bill is flawed and inadequate. Countless people have suffered from street racing while the government did nothing. Now the government is responding, but it is responding with a typical Liberal half-baked measure.
It reminds me of a couple of other issues related to the administration of justice, which I will touch on very quickly. One is the sex offender registry. As my colleagues know, victims' groups, the police and the provinces have been calling for a national sex offender registry for years. Unfortunately, the party opposite was ideologically opposed to such a move.
When public pressure became overwhelming in regard to the fact that the protection of children outweighed any privacy rights that sex offenders might have, the government did come up with proposed legislation for a sex offender registry. It was unfortunate and ironic what the bill did in regard to the registry. People were shocked to find out that the registry was not retroactive, which meant that all of the convicted sex offenders and people who had victimized children in the past would not be included in the registry.
It left countless Canadians wondering what was the point of having a registry if it was empty, if it was a blank sheet of paper, if we had to start from scratch when we already had all this information and could protect Canadians. There was a model in Ontario that we could have followed. Ontario had a retroactive registry.
Once again, in a wishy-washy method that was designed to pander to their own ideological bent, the Liberals could not stomach having an effective registry, but because of public pressure they had to come up with something.
The other example is Bill C-2, the child protection legislation. We see this same pattern. They call something “child protection legislation” so that it sounds like a bread and butter issue. It sounds good. We are all interested in protecting children, but what we are left with in Bill C-2 is a hollow shell. We are left with loopholes that people who victimize children could drive a truck through, loopholes that the defence and the bar associations across the country will have a field day with. It is not effective. It is not precise. It does not protect children. It does not go beyond where we are today with our current legislation.
The party opposite suggests that just by throwing a name out there and saying that something is a sex offender registry or child protection legislation or, in this case, a street racing bill, somehow Canadians will be fooled into thinking the government is taking some substantive actions.
Originally Mr. Cadman's bills were tabled to address the rise in street racing. The police tell us that the practice of street racing is becoming increasingly dangerous across the country. It begs the question, then, why now? Why is the government finally wanting to take on the appearance of action? Why was something not done in the past when Mr. Cadman was introducing private member's bills that would have addressed this very issue?
It is important to note the government's earlier response to Mr. Cadman. What was it saying in the past? 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. In my view, we are not seeing any such reason emerging from decisions of the trial courts and the appeal courts with regard to the four offences when street racing is a part of the circumstances of these offences.
There was a reluctance to adopt Mr. Cadman's bill. There was an effort to downplay it, to make it sound like it was not going to be effective. The Minister of Justice said, “Your proposed bill would result in a mandatory driving prohibition”.
That is what the bill called for: a mandatory driving prohibition.
The minister went on to say:
As you are aware, the Canadian criminal justice system is premised on the notion that sentences should be individualized for each offender...Research indicates that mandatory minimum penalties do not work from the point of general deterrence and recidivism.
This is the same line that we hear from the current Minister of Justice. We heard it as recently as yesterday in a response to a question. The Minister of Justice stated that mandatory minimum sentences do not work, yet we see that in other jurisdictions they are effective for serious offences. The Minister of Justice and the government are for some reason ideologically opposed to providing concrete protections for law-abiding citizens and to protecting the innocent in society.
It has been three years since Mr. Cadman first tabled his bills. All along, the government refused to support the legislation because it called for mandatory minimum driving prohibitions and increased the punishment for repeat offenders.
We could ask any Canadian if it makes sense that if someone is a repeat offender there should be an increase in the punishment. If someone is showing signs of recidivism, of being a repeat offender, should there be an increase in the punishment? The average thinking Canadian would say, “Absolutely. That makes sense”. When someone is a more serious offender, there should be a more serious consequence to the offence, yet in the past the government refused to support this legislation. I am pleased to say that the Conservatives have consistently supported these measures.
Bill C-65 proposes to amend the Criminal Code by defining street racing and by specifically identifying involvement in street racing as an aggravating factor during sentencing. That makes sense. The following offences are listed: 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.
Bill C-65 also provides for mandatory driving prohibition orders if street racing is found to be involved in one of those offences.
There we go. On the one hand, yesterday the minister stated that mandatory sentences do not work, yet in an effort to appease Canadians when there is public pressure for something, the party on the other side will do whatever it takes to appease people. So what do we see included in this bill? We see a measure that I support. There is the mandatory driving prohibition, but again it is a half measure because there is no increase for repeat offenders.
There is an irony in debating this bill today, which has the mandatory provision, when we remember that the Minister of Justice stood up yesterday and said in a blustery way that he was opposed to mandatory minimum sentences because they do not work. It just does not make sense.
Despite the positives, and there are some positives in this proposed bill, it is important to note, as I mentioned, that without serious penalties for serious crimes those crimes are going to continue. There will be no effect.
It is important to remind Canadians that in this legislation the severity of the punishment does not increase for repeat offenders. That was an essential aspect of the proposals in Mr. Cadman's original private member's bills. His bills proposed that for subsequent serious offenders there would be more serious consequences.
Bill C-65 is a half measure. After years of the government dragging its feet and speaking out against Mr. Cadman's private member's bills, it has introduced a half measure. It is a half measure that I cannot support.
We should honour the original intent of these bills, which would have been effective and would have provided serious consequences for those people who are serious offenders. We need to have some common sense amendments to this bill.