Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to address issues related to the Speech from the Throne.
I would like to start by thanking my constituents in the Okanagan and Nicola valleys, some of the most beautiful territory in all of Canada, I might add. Some of the ideas for the very elements that are in the Speech from the Throne germinated from constituents around the Okanagan and Nicola valleys in the constituency of Okanagan—Coquihalla who, over the past number of years, have brought to me concerns related to some of the elements I want to address today in the Speech from the Throne, notably areas related to safety and security.
It is a priority for each level of government to have a country and communities with safe and secure roads, countryside and schools. That is very important. It is a priority.
It should be the priority of every government that the safety and security of its citizens is paramount. I want to touch on some of the ways in which we have demonstrated that in the last year and half or so. I would then like to reflect on what we heard in the Speech from the Throne yesterday that is specifically related to some of the initiatives on criminal justice reform which will enhance not just safety and security in the country but the sense of safety and security that we have in our country or that we need to have.
We can look at statistics and we can also look at this in an anecdotal way. Today I want to do both. I have an uncle who lives in the Okanagan Valley. Obviously he is a senior citizen, being my uncle, and not that long ago in the middle of the afternoon as he was walking in his residential area to the grocery store he was approached by two males. They did not appear to be armed, but they told him, and he is a frail gentleman, that they wanted his wallet or they were going to beat him senseless right on the sidewalk.
This is a not uncommon occurrence across our country. There are people who do not have a fear of repercussions or an understanding of the consequences of their actions. I can apply that anecdote statistically. Across the country from Vancouver to Halifax and from our southern borders to our northern borders, this adds up to a sense of apprehension Canadians have that communities are not as safe as they could be.
I believe that if we were to ask Canadians if they feel that streets are safer now than they were two years ago with regard to some of the things we have been doing, most Canadians would say yes, but in fact there is more to do. We have committed to 1,000 more RCMP officers on our streets from coast to coast. We know that the visibility of peace officers, just their presence, has the effect of lowering crime in any particular area in which their presence is obvious.
We have committed to that. That is fully and federally funded. Also, the $37 million required to expand the training facilities at depot is already in play. Not long ago I was out at depot in Regina, the training facility for the RCMP, and I saw that some of the new facilities are already online. I met with many of the young cadets and spoke to a graduating class. I can tell members that I am very encouraged. I have a real sense of security and a sense of pride at the type of people the RCMP continues to attract and to graduate to serve us in our communities around the country.
Further to the 1,000 officers at the RCMP level, we have also made a commitment to work with provinces and municipalities so that we will have 2,500 more municipal officers across the country. I have been in discussions with my counterparts at the provincial and territorial level, the solicitors general and attorneys general, to discuss the funding formula. This is not 100% funded by the federal government. It is going to be cost shared.
At our borders we have begun the process of hiring 400 additional border officers to put an end to what we call work alone situations, in which border officers often are required to work in remote locations and to work there alone, which really is not conducive to a sense of safety or security, either for the people living along the border or for the border officers themselves.
We also have followed through on our commitment that our border officers, after decades of asking for this, finally will be trained and equipped to have side arms so they can handle dangerous situations when they get alerted that dangerous and armed individuals are approaching the border. As we know, that has not been in place for decades, the result of which has been that border officers have felt they actually have to vacate their posts because they receive an indication that armed and dangerous individuals are approaching them. They have to close down the border at that point, alert the police of the jurisdiction, be it the RCMP or municipal police, and wait for them to arrive.
All of the incumbent difficulties with this, not the least of which are long lineups that result, especially at busy border points, have been counterproductive, both on business and trade and certainly for travellers back and forth across the border. We have moved in a number of areas on this. I made an announcement last January for a commitment of $430 million strictly on the technological side to improve our borders and our capability of moving people efficiently across the border, but also to make it very difficult for dangerous individuals or in fact dangerous cargo to be moving across the border.
It is a challenge to keep our borders open to travellers who are not a threat but to close the borders to those who represent a threat to our country.
We need to have that balance at our borders.
Therefore, on the resource side we have been there and we continue to be there. We have increased resources for the RCMP, resources that were eroded over a number of years by the previous regime, something that did not result in beneficial headway being made in terms of providing safety and security. When we take away the resources of the very people who are providing that safety and security, it does not lead to a positive conclusion.
We have increased the resources for our DNA centres and for the National Child Exploitation Coordination Centre. I would like to acknowledge today those individuals for the breakthroughs they have been involved in internationally in working with Interpol and other agencies in terms of bringing child predators to justice, including very recently a case that has been in the media whereby an individual allegedly involved in the exploitation of children is still being looked for. Once again, we and exploitation coordination centre experts are at the front and centre of this type of pursuit. We have also increased our resources in a number of other investigative areas.
Up to now I have been talking about enforcement. I have been talking about what I refer to as the long arm of the law. We also have to recognize that there are the open arms of the community. This is not all about enforcement. We have funded in a very significant way the groups at the local level who have the expertise, the know-how and the sense of what is happening on their own streets to have the types of programs that would prevent young people from even getting into a life of crime.
Many young people today are being attracted to gang activity, to illegal activities such as drug activities and others, which leads to the most tragic incidents we have seen in some time, with shootings on our streets and some of the most violent things that are taking place. Therefore, we fund with federal funds at a local level those groups and agencies that have proven they have a program that works. Those are the two words I use as criteria.
There are other more detailed criteria that flow from it, but we want to know what works in Canadians' communities. That is what we are saying to Canadians. We are asking them to show us what works in terms of identifying youth at risk, vulnerable families, progress toward reducing recidivism and programs projected to our aboriginal community. We are asking them to show us those programs, to show us what works, and we will fund it.
Along with that on the prevention side is the $64 million the Prime Minister announced about three weeks ago for our anti-drug strategy, in which two-thirds of the resources are dedicated to awareness, prevention and actual treatment centres, which means literally more beds for treatment across the country, especially in dealing with drug and substance abuse and the addictions that go with it. We are very keen about and very focused on the prevention side.
Going back to the other side of that ledger, the enforcement side, our Minister of Justice announced today, and the Prime Minister announced yesterday in his comments responding to the Speech from the Throne, that there are some areas where we have to get tougher, if I can use those words, when it comes to the enforcement side and serious, repeat violent crime. That is what we are talking about.
Our police officers across the country and our various security agencies have told us for some time, for instance, that we need legislation to more capably and more effectively designate people as dangerous offenders. There are individuals out there who, it would appear, are impervious to attempts at rehabilitation, not that we would ever give up on an individual. I believe in rehabilitation and I believe a person's heart can change, but there are individuals whose actions are so violent and repetitive that these individuals literally should not be allowed on our streets. It would be extremely helpful to be able to designate people as dangerous offenders in a more effective way.
Opposition parties have resisted our ability to do that. We are not talking about thousands of people here. We are talking about a relatively small handful of people and about designating them as dangerous offenders and taking them off our streets. That is part of what we are proposing. It is part of what my colleague, the Minister of Justice, has proposed.
We are also proposing that when it comes to gun crime and people who commit crimes with firearms, especially in a repeated way, there should be mandatory jail terms. I am astonished that opposition members have resisted this. I am astonished that when the bill in its previous form went to committee, they watered it down. I am astonished that the majority of Liberals, when it came to a vote, voted against mandatory jail terms for the use of firearms in the commission of a crime. Why would the Liberals vote against that? Why would they not support it? It defies imagination. I have no idea, but our police officers tell us that we and they need that type of legislative tool to get some of the worst criminals off the street.
We have seen many situations whereby serious repeat violent offenders are arrested and it always falls upon the Crown to prove why they should be held in jail for their court times and not have bail. This is what we are talking about when it comes to repeat serious offenders. I have just read a docket on an individual with over 100 offences, almost two dozen of those being violent assaults, who is out on the streets again, with the impetus and the responsibility on the Crown to try to prove he should not be getting bail. That person should prove why he should have the right to be out on bail.
That is why we have this term: the reverse onus on bail. It is requiring these individuals, and again, we are talking about serious repeat offenders, to prove why they should have the right to be out there threatening our citizens on the street.
When it comes to protecting our children, I can remember sitting as an opposition member, a memory which I hope I will never have to relive as a member of Parliament. I hope the good people of Canada will continue to support what we are doing and I will not have to go through the situation of being in opposition, but there we were as an opposition caucus about four years ago getting a presentation from the Toronto police related to this very serious area of the exploitation of children, especially on the Internet. The officer who was presenting this talked about the fact that in Toronto alone in one year they seized over two million exhibits of children being exploited on the Internet and through other means.
The police begged. They said, “Please, continue to put pressure on the government of the day to raise the age of consent between a minor and an adult to at least 16 years”. We are not talking about between teenagers here.
We asked the government of the day to do that. For years we asked the government to do that and the Liberals never did it. They never stood up to protect our kids in that way. I remember saying in those days that any government of the land that does not stand up to protect the children of the land really forfeits the right to govern the land. That Liberal government is not governing any longer and yet the Liberals continue to resist, now in a Liberal-dominated Senate, this simple request to raise the age of protection for children from 14 to 16.
My constituents ask me what would motivate a group of individuals in the Senate to not want to protect children by raising the age of consent from 14 to 16. I do not know. I cannot explain it. I cannot explain why for years the Liberals opposite, right here in this assembly, resisted doing that, but they did. I do not understand it. I know most of my Liberal colleagues. I think they are decent people, but somewhere their thinking is wired in the wrong direction on this.
On Bill C-2, we are talking about a bill that addresses the area of serious, repeat violent crime. That is what we are asking for. It has been debated. It has been watered down by the opposition members. It has been out there for too long. The people of Canada deserve better. The people of Canada deserve to have a sense that the people who say they represent them are indeed doing that.
I believe this bill is going to accomplish something else. Often when opposition members leave this place at the end of the week, they go home and talk tough on these issues at home. But when they get back here, where they think they are in the safety of this chamber, they vote against the very measures they told their constituents they were going to be tough about.
Those days are over. The opposition is going to vote against dealing with serious repeat criminals. It will be obvious. The opposition will have to stand here and have to vote, and their constituents are going to see where they really stand. It is time to stand up for safety and security in our country.
We want a country that is more safe and secure. Naturally, we now have a safe country, but we must focus our attention on this matter particularly with Bill C-2.
I will close with a comment on national security. Canada is not immune to threats of terror. About four years ago Canada was listed with several other countries on a list by Osama bin Laden. Canada was on that list as a target country. Canada is the only one that was on that particular list and has not been hit. We want to keep it that way. It is our intention to keep it that way.
Our police officers need certain legislative provisions to help them in their job. To protect the national security of our country there are some provisions in the Anti-terrorism Act and a provision in our security certificate process. People from coast to coast have commented on this, from Vancouver to Halifax, from the north to the south and all points in between, that one thing that we have resolved is these provisions that will help us in dealing with the risk of terror incidents here in Canada.
Many of these provisions were put in place by the Liberals. They had a sunset clause on them, which is a good thing to have. It meant that after five years we evaluate those provisions to see if they have been abused in any way.
The provisions in the Anti-terrorism Act and the provisions of the security certificates were seen not to have been abused. That will be coming back.
I am asking the Leader of the Opposition to listen to the many Liberals and former Liberals, including the former deputy prime minister, the former public safety minister, my predecessor, and others. They are saying to the leader of the Liberal opposition, “please allow these protections to go through. Please allow our agencies to be equipped with the legislative tools they need to effectively protect us from acts of terror and people who are planning acts of terror”.
Strangely and shockingly, the Leader of the Opposition has flip-flopped on that issue. At least his last intention was not to support it. I believe that time here in this Chamber has allowed him to reconsider, just as it allowed him to reconsider not voting against the Speech from the Throne. He had some thought. He thought about the ramifications of that and he decided to support us in a meagre way.
I am asking that when it comes to safety and security, I am appealing to all colleagues in this House, that we would set aside partisan differences and vote together for a country that will be safe and a country that will be secure.