Mr. Speaker, I rise today on behalf of the citizens of Calgary Centre-North to address criminal justice legislation that I view as extremely important to, in particular, the safety of women and children in my community.
I am astounded to be in the House and hear the NDP in particular talking about this as an issue of cooperation and healthy communities. This bill is directed at punitive measures toward the most dangerous sexual predators in our society. That is what we are talking about. I have no idea what they are talking about at that end of the House with respect to healthy communities. These are individuals who are sexual predators and who are incorrigible and this bill attempts to deal with them in a way that will make our streets safe for women and children.
What in heaven's name the NDP is talking about, I do not know.
I would like to say at the outset that we should all be proud of the work that the Minister of Justice has done with respect to this bill. These are sentencing reforms that are long overdue in our country. Our Minister of Justice has taken the initiative and has brought forward sound legislation that reflects the appropriate balance, and I commend it to the House.
I feel strongly about this legislation. It is necessary because there is a lack of balance in the existing law in Canada, which is not acceptable to the people of Canada as represented by their elected representatives in the House of Commons, as it relates to the sentencing of dangerous offenders.
I think it would be useful for members of that party to realize that the genesis of this legislation is in a decision of the Supreme Court of Canada, the Johnson decision. Frankly, that decision is one of the more controversial decisions in recent times by the Supreme Court of Canada. It reflects a tension between the legislative branch and the judicial branch relative to sentencing provisions.
Now this is not the first time this tension has existed. Previous parliaments attempted to reform the dangerous offender provisions in 1995 and 1997. The Johnson case is a complex case and much has been said about what it may say and what it does not say. However, the way in which that decision has been interpreted by the lower courts is to impose upon the Crown a burden to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a dangerous sexual predator cannot be successfully managed in the community. That is a burden which is very difficult to overcome and, frankly, some would argue that it is a burden which is impossible to meet.
I think the opposition parties need to be aware, and the NDP in particular, that the consequence of that decision has been a precipitous drop in terms of both dangerous offender applications in our country and also dangerous offender convictions. That is unacceptable.