moved that Bill C-215, an act to amend the Criminal Code (consecutive sentence for use of firearm in commission of offence), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased and proud to rise in support of Bill C-215, an act to amend the Criminal Code, the consecutive sentence for use of a firearm in commission of indictable offences.
The purpose of this enactment is to require that a sentence for the commission of certain serious offences be supplemented if a firearm is used. The additional sentence is to be served consecutively to the other sentence and is to be a further minimum punishment of five years imprisonment if the firearm is not discharged, 10 years if it is discharged and 15 years if it is discharged and as a result a person, other than an accomplice, is caused bodily harm.
The offences affected are those specified in the following sections: using a firearm in the commission of the offence or using an imitation firearm in the commission of the offence; and the offences being murder, manslaughter, attempted murder, assault causing bodily harm with intent, sexual assault with a weapon, aggravated sexual assault, kidnapping, hostage taking, extortion and robbery.
The bill I am bringing forward today is not about incarceration but it is about sending a very clear message. It is a message about protecting society by providing an effective deterrent against serious indictable offences involving guns.
The precedent of mandatory minimum sentences has worked extremely well as an effective deterrent in cases of impaired driving. Many of us in the House will remember a number of years ago when one was stopped for an impaired driving charge and the person would perhaps receive a penalty of a three month suspension and maybe a $200 fine. Unfortunately, that did little to stem the abuse of impaired driving.
Consequently, a minimum mandatory was established of a one year suspension and a $1,000 fine. All of a sudden we started to achieve results. The message was a clear deterrent and that message was do not drink and drive.
We have a precedent, therefore, and it is in these types of sentences that it can work. I truly believe a clear message of deterrence must be applied to criminals who use firearms while committing an indictable offence, and that message being that if a person uses a gun in the commission of an offence he or she will pay a severe price.
Let me be absolutely clear. This proposed amendment is about sending a message. It is about sending a message to our criminal society. It is the message that the safety and security of society must be addressed. We need to send this message not only to those who commit the crimes that they will be punished but we also have to send this message to those who have experienced these crimes as a victim, that we take their protection seriously and that we will take all measures necessary to ensure that their rights and their safety are respected.
Over this past while I have met with many organizations, municipal and interest groups. As a matter of fact, just lately I met personally with the Canadian Professional Police Association that represents over 54,000 members in this country. I have also met with the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police. Both of those associations fully endorse the proposed bill.
I have with me today a written endorsement from these defenders of justice. I will take the liberty of informing my colleagues of their sentiments.
The first one is a written endorsement from the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police. It reads:
Letter of Endorsement
The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police is pleased to support Bill C-215, an act to amend the Criminal Code (consecutive sentence for use of firearm in commission of offence), standing in the name of...MP Prince Edward-Hastings.
The Association feels this is an appropriate, serious response to occurrences of violent crime. We support the underlying principles of this legislation.
The letter is signed by Edgar MacLeod, President of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police.
As well, I have an endorsement from the Canadian Professional Police Association. It reads:
CPPA Support to Bill C-215
The Canadian Professional Police Association endorses the principle of creating tougher penalties for the commission of serious offences when they are supplemented with the use of a firearm.
We believe that private members' Bill C-215 provides an effective deterrent against violent gun crimes and applaud the member for Prince Edward—Hastings for introducing it.
The Canadian Professional Police Association, which represents 54,000 police personnel members in every province from across the country believes, however, that, “provisions contained in Bill C-215 should apply to serious offences when they are supplemented with the use of a firearm as well as any other type of weapon”.
As we can see, there are groups and organizations that want the bill to extend into a further reach. I believe the bill is worthy of debate and going to a committee for examination to see if some of these other recommendations from the third party sources could possibly have an effect.
Judicially there are also concerns of the glaring inconsistencies of sentencing and literally the virtual ritual of plea bargaining resulting in the absence of a consistent message of deterrence being sent to the criminal element. If sentences for gun crimes continue to be arbitrarily decided without consistency, then criminals will continue to behave without fear of consequence.
As a former police officer a number of years ago, I have felt firsthand what many victims have been shockingly exposed to, and that is looking down the barrel of a gun from the wrong end. While many of us know what it is like to fire a gun, how many in the House know what it is like to have a gun pointed at them, to stare down the barrel of a gun and have one's life pass by literally in a millisecond?
I can assure members that the half-inch bore of a gun looks like a cannon before the victim's eyes. I would also like to separate the fiction of the entertainment world's perception of firearms from the reality of the real pain and the real suffering.
In the nostalgic days of Wyatt Earp and the OK Corral, the portrayal of gunslingers where they would supposedly shoot at 80 paces and hit the gun out of an adversary's hand was absolutely and totally ridiculous and fictitious of course. Anyone who has any familiarity with handguns, unless they are in the hands of an expert marksman in a controlled setting, would know that the reality is that handguns are absolutely not accurate in the hands of someone who is in an uncontrolled situation with spray patterns literally emerging from side to side.
For instance, if I had a handgun in my hand right now and at point of origin I would just simply wave it, in a non-threatening way of course toward any of my colleagues in the House, literally six-inches at origin, every one of my colleagues from one side of the House to the other would be in danger of being hit by, obviously a weapon. Handguns are totally unreliable and many innocent victims, under circumstances like this, are either killed, disabled or injured as a criminal in an uncontrolled situation is generally in a state of anxiety and has little care, regard or concern for others.
Many people quote statistics and refer to them as numbers, and of course, cold hard numbers they are. In reality, when firearms are involved in these statistics, literally every one is a human tragedy. I would like to draw the attention of my hon. colleagues to the following statistics which clearly demonstrate the scope of human pain and suffering that is not always just physical but on many occasions, scars a person psychologically for the rest of their life. On July 28, 2004 Statistics Canada released its annual report on robberies which stated:
The rate of robberies rose 5%, the first gain since 1996. This included a 10% increase in robberies committed with a firearm. Of the more than 28,000 robberies in 2003, 14% involved a firearm, 38% were committed with a weapon other than a firearm, and nearly half were committed without a weapon.
Over 2,300 robberies that took place in 2003 were committed with a firearm. Of the 161 firearm homicides in 2003, 109 were committed with handguns. Other violent crimes are increasing as well. Attempted murder and aggravated assault were both up 4% and assault with a weapon was up 1% in 2003.
Many people will say that is only 1%, 2%, 3% or 4%, but let me put that into perspective. Over the past 25 years, violent crime has gone up 66%. That is simply not acceptable. The status quo is not working. As these statistics clearly show, violent crime is all too prevalent in Canada.
There are serious problems, particularly in our urban cores with gangs, violence in clubs, and convenience store and gas bar robberies. I would like to draw the attention of all of my hon. colleagues in the House, but particularly those from the metro-Toronto area and those from our urban cores, to yesterday's headline in the Toronto Star which read, “Toronto's Deadly Weekend”. I would like to take the liberty to read from that paper which stated:
Deadliest weekend: 3 dead, 5 injured...a woman fatally shot Friday evening...Two other victims were rushed to Sunnybrook hospital, where they are being treated for gunshot wounds. A woman was shot dead and her husband injured by gunfire...Investigators say a man was shot in the back after a fight broke out on the dance floor, and a woman hit in the thigh.
All of that happened on the same day in one of our major cities. The paper went on to report:
--a student standing in a covered bus shelter...was hit in the arm by gunfire about 1 p.m. Friday.
Those stories all came out of one newspaper.
Walking back to my apartment last night I happened to pick up Sunday's Ottawa Citizen and what did I find in there as well but a story about another person being shot on Friday night in the city of Ottawa. I can probably assume from these kind of activities that if I pick up a newspaper from a major metropolitan area, I will see similar kinds of activities and reporting.
We cannot simply stand by and watch our communities deteriorate further. While respecting the rights of criminals, we must stop this escalation of violent crime. We must turn the corner of this page. We fully understand and respect the fact that criminals have rights, but society has rights as well. We have the right to live without fear of injury or death. I believe that in failing to act to prevent crimes like those that happened last weekend in Toronto, we are failing in our duty as members of Parliament.
Parliament is a body of lawmakers. My hon. colleagues sitting in the House with me today have responsibilities. We have the responsibility to protect the vulnerable in our society. We have the responsibility to provide the tools for our law enforcement agencies. We must follow-through with that responsibility. We must send a clear message of deterrence, protection and prevention.
I believe that we have a duty in this place to support Bill C-215. It is a positive initiative to deal with gun crimes against society. I look forward to comments from my colleagues in the House.