Mr. Speaker, I listened intently to my hon. colleague's comments. I want to bring up something on Bill C-10 as there may be some confusion in terms of the intent of the bill. I gather that the intent of the bill is to address criminal activity by hard core criminals, particularly individuals who are involved in organized crime.
If we look at the statistics on criminal activity and crimes in Canada, we will find that 75% of crimes in Canada have actually been in decline. Looking at the most serious, homicide, which is an exception, that which probably all Canadians are most concerned about, in 2000 the homicide rate was 1.8 per 100,000 citizens and today it is about two. If we look at all other criminal activity, 75% of it, the rate for many violent crimes has actually declined over the last six years, and indeed, if we looked back in time, we would find there was a decline before that.
What is increasing, as the hon. member was correction in mentioning, is organized crime. This is a very serious problem in our country, as most police officers have told us, and requires a great deal of effort.
Going in that direction, we passed the RICO amendments, racketeering influence corruption organization charges. Some people think that organized crime gangs, by and large, are people who have long hair, patches on the backs of their jackets and drive big Harley-Davidson motorcycles. That is the conventional thinking and certainly some are like that, but the bulk of organized criminals are individuals in $3,000 Armani suits who look like us and they use very sophisticated technology to commit crimes. They do this in many different ways.
One of the serious power generators of organized crime is drugs because they are prohibited. Whenever there is prohibition, a warped and twisted market is established where that which is prohibited has a value far beyond its actual worth. I would not for a moment advocate that anybody use drugs. I am opposed to it. I am a physician. In my professional career I have been involved in helping people get off drugs because of the damage that drugs inflict.
If we look at soft drugs, for example, marijuana, we have to ask ourselves whether the current prohibitions are beneficial to society. The answer that comes from groups as diverse as the Canadian Medical Association and churches is that the current prohibitions against simple possession of marijuana are actually more deleterious and damaging to the individual than if we were to decriminalize simple possession, which is what I personally hoped the government would pursue.
The Liberal government put forward a bill to decriminalize the simple possession of marijuana. In fact, if we decriminalized it and allowed individuals to possess three plants, which in effect are weeds, albeit weeds which, no question, if smoked cause damaging effects and it is habit forming, the ties between the individual small time user and organized criminal activity would be severed.
It is because of its prohibition that organized crime gangs derive moneys from marijuana in our country. Marijuana, and to a lesser extent cocaine and to a large extent crystal meth and other drugs drive the financial underpinnings of organized crime gangs. They buy and sell any kind of contraband, including guns. Thankfully, handguns are severely restricted in our country. They prey upon people and use contraband, from liquor to people to drugs, to make money. It affects our country and society in very negative ways.
How do we manage go after individuals who may possess guns illegally? How do we affect those people in a negative way? The Liberals put forth a number of mandatory minimums and RICO. The government may want to consider strengthening the RICO amendments. It may want to consider strengthening the racketeer influenced and corruption organizations charges that enable police and courts to go after the financial underpinnings of organized crime gangs.
One of the worst things a government could do to organized crime would be to legalize the simple possession of marijuana and allow individuals to possess two to three plants per individual, and no more. That would separate the commercial grow operations, which should and must continue to be illegal, many of which are connected to organized crime, and the small time recreational user who has a couple of plants. Leave that as a problem to be dealt with medically. Leave it to individuals to discuss this with their physicians in an effort to try to decrease that. Put money into the schools to encourage children not to use drugs at all. That would be beneficial. Severing the small time user from the organized crime gangs involved in organized grow operations is fundamentally important.
We have to increase the penalties against those individuals and give the police the technology required go after them. I would encourage the government to listen to the police who have effective solutions to this problem. I encourage it to listen to the courts and lawyers. They can advise the government how to go after individuals involved in organized crime so they cannot use and twist our criminal justice system in a way that allows them to not have the force of the law apply to their nefarious activities.
This would be sensible and effective. My hon. colleague, who spoke before me, addressed mandatory minimums with respect to Bill C-10. This would address that issue.
The Liberal government put in quite a few mandatory minimums, which may not be well-known to the public. They addressed those individuals who were involved or had been involved in serious criminal activity. It is a relatively small group who are repeatedly involved in activities that are profoundly frustrating to the police.
I will refer to the comments of my colleague from London West who gave a very good summary of that. She said that the Criminal Code contained 42 mandatory minimum penalties, that sentencing judges could use their discretion when sentencing to up for higher than the mandatory minimums and that a mandatory minimum was a floor and not a ceiling.
Generally speaking, these 42 infractions fall within the following criteria: impaired driving and blood alcohol over .08; betting and bookmaking; high treason; second degree murder; use of a firearm in an indictable offence; use of a firearm in 10 listed offences; possession and trafficking of various prohibited firearms; sexual interference; invitation to sexual touching; sexual exploitation; making, transmitting, possessing, accessing child pornography, and we have some of the toughest laws in the world that we enacted against child pornography; procuring and committing sexual activities on minors; prostitution of minors; and living off the avails of child prostitution. We also introduced a number of measures to toughen the laws against those individuals who sexually preyed on minors.
The 10 listed offences included mandatory minimums for: a firearm was used in commission with the offences; criminal negligence caused death; manslaughter; attempted murder; causing bodily harm with intent to harm; sexual assault with a weapon, a firearm; aggravated sexual assault; kidnapping; robbery; extortion and hostage taking.
Members can see the Liberal government introduced an array of mandatory minimums.
Why are these further mandatory minimums required if we already have applied an array of mandatory minimums to address serious indictable offences? I think most of us feel we should have sentencing guidelines for the courts so individuals cannot get off on serious offences?
I also want to address the issue of terrorism, which is connected. We had a serious event take place over the last few days in Toronto. Part of our ability to execute our duties and responsibilities to protect Canadians, which is one of our most serious duties of all, is our ability to deal with these issues.
Terrorism is a complex issue. I would implore the government to work with Muslim communities and ask them to be much more vigilant within their communities when they find individuals espousing fundamental violent sentiments against our society. This affects Muslims and non-Muslims alike. It offends the vast majority of Muslims, who are the backbone of Canadian society, when they hear that individuals of their faith have allegedly been engaged in these activities.
Around the world there are religious schools. Some of them teach a very anti-western sentiment, sometimes with significant, overt and explicit violent overtones. The Muslim communities in Canada must work with the authorities when they find that individuals are trying to get particularly young individuals involved in violent activities. That community, be it Muslim or non-Muslim, must address this and inform the authorities if it is taking place.
Those communities should be a monitoring mechanism. If they are vigilant within their communities and are willing to take the steps to monitor what is occurring, then we will have a level of intelligence and knowledge on the ground that is invaluable to the police. Muslims and non-Muslims alike will be killed in terrorist activities. We saw that with 9/11. We saw that in Bali. We saw that in Kenya, in Tanzania and in Spain. These are areas where al-Qaeda has engaged in terrorist activities.
I am sure all of us would implore Muslim communities to be more vigilant, to look within their communities and discourage individuals who espouse anti-western hatred or violent activities against our society. This is clearly not something any civic-minded individual would want to support. I know the Muslim communities do not support it.
There are bad eggs in any group. It is up to all of us to identify those bad eggs who are willing to engage in illegal and violent activities against our society. I cannot emphasize enough how important that is. This level of intelligence and knowledge on the ground would be invaluable to our police officers and CSIS in their ability to protect us.
The past weekend showed us that Canada is not immune from terrorist activities. We are a mark, that is very clear. We cannot be lulled into a sense of self-delusion by thinking we are not. It behooves us to be prepared, not paranoid, to engage in those necessary protective measures to ensure that life and limb are protected.
I want to deal with the issue of prevention. I have brought it up many times in the House. The government has an extraordinary opportunity, with the money it has right now, to work with the provinces to truly implement a preventive mechanism that works.
Current science has allowed us to look at the development of a child's brain in the first six years of life. If we use something called a positron emission tomography scanner, called a PET scanner. During that time, the brain is very sponge like. It is very malleable, like plastic, to use the technical term.
What happens at that early stage of life is the neurons making those connections take place during that period of time. Positive and negative things can affect those neuro connections. For children who are subjected to sexual abuse, improper nutrition, violence and neglect, we can prove that those neuro connections do not take place as effectively as they would in children who are in a loving, caring environments where they have engagement with good parents and have good nutrition. Doing that enables children to have the psychological and neurological bedrock that will enable them to be productive, integrated members of society.
The most egregious example of this is when a fetus is subjected to alcohol, which is devastating. We see the damage when the child is born. The reason I mention this is we know that up to 40% to 50% of individuals who are in jail have FAS or FAE. This is a staggering statistic, given that FAS and FAE are preventable causes of neurological damage at birth. We can do something about this.
Looking at statistics, some anti-poverty advocates say that poverty leads to criminal activity. If that were the case, then children of members of religious communities, or padres, or pastors or others who do not make much money would be running afoul of the law. However, the fact is they do very well.
Similarly in immigrant communities, where people come here with nothing, but provide their children with very solid parenting, those children do far better than their parents. They have a disciplined, structured environment with the care and the love they require.
If the government could work with the provinces for an awareness program on literacy and if children were read to or if they had playtime for 30 minutes a day, the impact upon those children would be extraordinary, and that has been proven to work.
These are simple things that work very well. We can extend that to physical activity. Silken Laumann, our Olympic heroine, is advocating playtime with children, not sitting in front of a television. These days there is far too much structure in children's lives. They do not have a chance to play, which is critically important in the development of that child's brain. It provides a level of malleability that stands them in good stead later on.
Simple things can go a long way. The impact upon this, through a wide range of socio-economic parameters, is quite significant, including kids who stay in school longer, less dependence on welfare and higher rates of post-secondary education. Also, there is a 50% to 60% reduction in youth crime. Imagine having a program that is very simple, inexpensive and is child-parent centred, which that results in a 50% to 60% reduction in youth crime. It is a staggering statistic and it works.
A 25 year retrospective analysis has been done in places as far afield as Yipsilanty, Michigan and Moncton, New Brunswick, where our former colleague, Claudette Bradshaw, and her husband started a wonderful head start program. Hawaii's has healthy start program. Also wonderful work is being done at the University of Montreal.
The statistics, the facts and the simple measures are there. While it does not fall under the realm of the federal government, it behooves the federal government to work with its provincial counterparts to accomplish this.
The government, with the money it has, has great opportunities. When we were in government, we introduced 42 mandatory minimum sentences for an array of very serious offences. It is our view that this bill is not necessary. If it were necessary, we would be ardent supporters of it. However, we have already implemented an array of mandatory minimums and sentencing guideline positions for the courts.
It would be better for the government to focus on implementing solutions that would help the police to go after organized criminal activity, which is a serious problem in our society. Those solutions have been given to the government by the police. I would implore and challenge the government to implement those solutions, carpe diem.