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House of Commons Hansard #26 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was resp.

Topics

Tackling Violent Crime ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very proud to rise on behalf of the people of Timmins—James Bay to discuss Bill C-2.

What we are called to do in Parliament, as parliamentarians and despite everything else, is to make laws of the land that will hold up and reflect a sense of jurisprudence and also a belief that the laws will establish a way we should be as a nation. This is the forum in which that happens.

Unfortunately, we have seen over the last number of years, particularly with the Conservative government and its crime agenda, the debasement of debate. There are 308 members to reflect judiciously on serious issues. Then when they stand up and speak, they are ridiculed. We have the cheap cat call gallery in the Conservatives, which is always looking to twist and take words out of context. What we end up having is the notion of debate passing through some kind of spinmeister's message box in search of a wedge issue.

At the end of the day it serves a certain political group very well. It creates a legitimation crisis. It creates a sense that Parliament is not there to get something done, that parliamentarians are sitting on their rear ends doing nothing because they are not responding.

I will speak in particular about the Conservatives' crime agenda. They government has accused basically everyone in the House of stalling on crime and being soft of crime. Conservative members have said at times in the House that members somehow support child pornography. These claims are outrageous, and it is debasement of our role, which is to bring forward reflection on bills that deal with crime.

Nowhere is this clearer than on Bill C-2. A number of the sections of this bill were brought through the House, voted on, discussed and brought forward with good amendments, to the point of being law, particularly the age of consent bill, which at the point of being law. The issue of gun crime sentencing, which all parties worked on, and provisions with regard to bail would all be law now. Yet the Conservatives prorogued the House and allowed those bills to die.

The government then started the whole process over again and began to accuse our friends in the upper chamber of not doing their job. If we even stood and asked questions, we were told we were being soft on crime and delaying the issue. It is a total obfuscation of fact. It really raises question as to why are these laws not already law, if the government were serious on a crime agenda and having laws that would work for people. The bills were ready to go.

What we have is this continual cheapening of political discourse. That leads me to the shenanigans we saw today during statements and question period. My good friend from Nepean—Carleton, who is often a favourite partisan ankle-biter, stood and tried to take the words I said yesterday and spin them into a little wedge issue for the Conservative Party and make it seems that I somehow refused to support the age of consent from 14 to 16, that I tried to block the bill and that we were soft on crime.

I will not respond to the member's comments. I admire his partisan glee, but if he is going to do a hatchet job, he might as well do the job properly. This is unfortunately the problem we see, the debasement of debate. These discussions have become so absurd and silly. I do not know exactly to whom he thinks he is appealing.

I spoke about this yesterday, about how the Conservatives would try to twist facts. The Conservatives will misrepresent what was said. Then the spin doctors will take the ten percenters—

Tackling Violent Crime ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order, please. I heard a term, but I did not hear the entire sentence in which it was used. I heard a word used to describe one of the other hon. members. I want to caution the hon. member. I am not sure if “ankle-biter” would be found to be parliamentary. I will give the hon. member the benefit of the doubt, if he would just watch how he describes other members.

Tackling Violent Crime ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, it really speaks to what is happening in terms of these issues. The statement the member made is silly. If that member wants to come up to Timmins—James Bay and run around with a little Conservative ten percenter saying that I am soft on crime, by all means do it.

The people back home sent me here because they want to get rid of that bunch. They do not believe what those members say for an instant. If the Conservatives want to spend money using the public's ink to attack me personally in my riding, they can go ahead. They can send as many ten percenters as they want. They can do their little fife and drum show and say I am soft on crime. People back home know it is not true. They know we are here to reflect on crime bills and try to get them through.

With regard to Bill C-2, it is the misinformation that party has used again and again to try to show that members are delaying. In fact, it was the Conservative government that prorogued Parliament and let those bills die, particularly the age of consent bill, which would have been law if the Conservatives had simply signed, with a stroke of the pen, to revive it.

There is speculation that there might be an election by the time the bill goes through the Senate. The Conservatives know full well that the bill might not become law. I asked yesterday whether they might enjoy that situation and then they could run an entire campaign on how everyone else in the House was soft on crime. That is not doing Canadians any good.

My dear friend from Nepean—Carleton offered $1,000 to young people to write an essay on how to protect themselves from Internet luring. However, there was a catch. They had to take his petition around to people, a petition that blamed the Senate for stalling a bill that his own government had killed. He did not tell those young people about that.

This is another example of how the Conservatives continually put their grubby, partisan fingerprints on the imagination of our young people. What happened with that petition was a real debasement of Parliament. It brought discredit on all of us in the House, because we take these issues seriously. We take the issue of the age of consent seriously. We take the issue of gun crime seriously. We now have to play this little soap opera out day after day in the House.

The government has no national vision. It has no plan. It has been trying to rag the puck on crime bills because it has nothing else in its war chest. We are now involved again in a debate that has already been done. Everything had been settled, yet the government turned the clock back and rolled out the legislation again.

No wonder people do not have any faith in politicians when we look at the government's crime agenda. If a government is willing to be that partisan about issues involving the protection of the public, then how can we have faith in it on anything else? There are so many crime bills coming forward: mandatory minimums for bicycle theft, mandatory minimums for furniture theft, getting tough on whatever. All the government has on the docket are more crime bills. As I pointed out yesterday, this is like a wound that will never heal. All we need is one more horrific crime, one more drunk driver and the government will that say our laws are not serious enough.

This debases the larger issue of what Canada's policy should be in terms of crime. Do we need to get serious on gun crimes? Certainly we do. Do we need to have policies in place to take on gangs? Yes indeed. We need to effectively target the ability of police to serve the regions of our country where we see spikes in crime. However, we also need to have a clear, coherent plan for dealing with criminals and recidivism.

I keep going back to the member for Nepean—Carleton because it was such an amusing piece. In fact, I might send it out as my ten percenter so people can see what they would have if they had a Conservative member instead of myself.

He said that I was opposed to the “three strikes and you're out” policy. Yes I am. I am certainly opposed to what the Conservatives are trying to do with their simplistic “three strikes and you're out” policy. People in California have been sentenced to life for stealing a pizza. That is the direction the government would like to take us.

The Conservatives are detracting from the larger issue. As long as we sit in the House having to defend ourselves about being soft on crime or about supporting child pornographers, or whatever else the government wants to throw at us in terms of its mud, we are not discussing the substantive need for having a forward thinking policy for the nation in the 21st century.

For example, there is a need for a committed infrastructure program for municipalities, whether rural or urban. We have no plan from the government. We are not talking about that because we are running around talking about bicycle theft today and whatever crimes tomorrow.

The other issue detracting our attention from the House by continually having bills brought back, argued again and dragged out is the example this past week of the Prime Minister, who shamed us on the international stage. At the Commonwealth talks he showed that Canada was no longer an international leader, that the government did not represent a national interest. It was a front for the ecological free booters, who are pillaging the tar sands. We need to have a serious discussion in the House about the failure of the government to come forward with an environmental policy that is anything but acting as a shield for big oil.

The issue of crime is a serious issue. We went through this in the House. We dealt with the issue of the age of consent. We dealt with the issue of gun violence. We came forward with coherent elements on which every party worked. At the end of the day, that is our role as legislators. We have to bring forward the experience of our communities so we bring in laws that will actually work, laws that can be applicable on the street, that the chiefs of police will agree with and for people who work with cases of recidivism, laws that are part of a coherent policy.

At this point we are now going through an entire debate process that should have already been done. These laws should be on the books. Why are we debating it again? I am not sure. However, I will not at this point turn around when the Conservatives say to take it or leave it, stand up or sit down. It is my role as a legislator to speak out on bills and I will continue to do that, regardless of the partisan mailings that go into my riding, regardless of whether they get backbenchers to stand to attack me or any other member of the House. Let them do it. It does not detract us from our job in this caucus of reflecting on the bills that are brought before the country. We need to ensure that when we introduce laws, they are workable laws and they are laws that will, at the end of the day, bring us forward as a nation rather than backwards.

I will finish on the “three strikes, you're out” policy. We have seen the complete failure of the crime policy in the United States, a vision for dealing with crime. The rates of violence continue in the United States. Gun crimes continue. People who should not have been thrown into the justice system are eaten up with its mandatory minimums and its “three strikes, you're out”. It is a failed policy.

The only thing worse than a failed policy are people who look at that failed policy years later, when they have all the empirical evidence, in the cold light of day, and make a calculated decision to approve a failed policy. That is even worse. It is much worse than the mistake our American neighbours made. If there were gun and gang violence, there would have been reasons for thinking that maybe the approach taken in the United States would work, but we have seen the failure of that approach. We know it has to be balanced and it has to be balanced between the need to ensure there is a way to get people out of the criminal system and into rehabilitation. We also need to have laws in place to take out the gangs, to have the police on the streets and to get serious on offences where need be.

We tried to strike that balance in the House. Having struck that balance, the Conservatives are driving in a much larger wedge. In the end, it comes to protecting our communities, and I have to always take it back to Timmins—James Bay, which I represent.

If the government is serious about getting tough on crime and protecting citizens, why have our communities on the James Bay coast been left almost without policing. The police officers, the service and the Nishnawbe Aski Nation police across the NAN territory are continually put in dangerous situations because there is no funding for them.

When we have one or two police officers in an isolated fly-in community of 2,000 people, that is not a place we should put anybody. We should have proper backup for police. Any other part of this country would take that for granted, but for some reason, in our isolated first nations communities, not only are the police underrepresented but the citizens are underrepresented. We have much higher rates of violence in these communities because of the lack of services, the lack of supports for communities and the lack of policing support. We know the stress that our police officers are under and the stress these communities are under.

If we are to get tough on crime, where is the money? Show me the money that would ensure that in the places where there is violence, which is on the isolated first nations reserves, that we have police, that the police have the necessary social supports and that we have the regional centres for victims of violence they could be taken to. They have none of that on the James Bay coast. I have always said that it is like a virtual third or fourth world.

However, one would think that a government that talks about getting tough on crime and dealing with the needs of citizens would recognize that we cannot simply put one police officer on his or her own in an isolated community with no backup. First, we are hurting the citizens and leaving them without police services, and second, there is not a non-native police service in this country that would put up with that.

Do we have to get serious about crime? Yes, we do. That is our job. Our job is to bring in laws and to ensure these laws work. We will reflect on these laws as they come forward. We will bring forward amendments that will make good laws and we will oppose laws that will not work. However, what we will never do is abrogate our responsibility as legislators to take the time to reflect on those bills.

If the government wants to take the time to prorogue the House for five weeks, that is its business. If it wants to allow bills that should have been law to sit and die, bills like the age of consent and the bills dealing with gun violence, and then begin again from scratch, that is its business. If it wants to take as long as it has to take, that is its business, but it cannot tell us in the House what our business is, which is representing our people and ensuring that any legislation the government brings forward, whether it is wrapped up in an omnibus bill or whether it is called a confidence motion, that it is legislation that will work and, at the end of the day, it has an efficacious nature that we can actually bring back and say to the people of Canada that 308 members of the House brought forward legislation that will work.

Tackling Violent Crime ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I enjoyed hearing the comments of the NDP member for Timmins—James Bay. I also enjoyed his involvement on the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage. He has a great sense of humour and he brings a lot of knowledge of the arts to the table at that committee. He is a great piano player and guitar player. In fact, I have heard him play piano and he puts my modest talents to shame.

However, I will say that he is away out of his depth when it comes to addressing the scourge of crime that is plaguing our country.

He took great care and joy in attacking my Conservative colleague for Nepean—Carleton and yet my colleague from Nepean—Carleton was spot on when he accused the member for Timmins—James Bay of being, not only soft on crime, but of trivializing the work that we are doing in the House to try to attack violent crime.

Bill C-2 addresses dangerous offenders who repeatedly offend. These are violent offenders. It addresses the issue of gun crimes. It addresses the issue of protecting the most vulnerable in our society, our children, against adult predators. He refers to the Conservatives as “wanting to run after the kids who steal handbags”. Imagine him trivializing that work.

He went on to say in this very House, “Grabbing old ladies handbags; kids tossing litter out on the sidewalks”. He refers to not getting serious about mandatory minimums for “furniture theft and bicycle theft”.

I would suggest that he should apologize to the House for trivializing the victims of crime in this country and the work that we are doing in the House, the very serious work we are doing to address crime in this country.

Tackling Violent Crime ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have great respect for my colleague. We have worked well together on committees. I have always told him that I respect him because he normally does his homework, unlike my dear friend from Nepean—Carleton who does not do his homework. I need for him to help his younger colleague.

My sense is that at the end of the day we are dealing with repeat offences here. We had a bill that was already pretty much law and we had to start it over again. I think there is a bit of a reverse onus on the Conservative Party to show us that it is actually serious about getting tough on crime and is not just playing it in the House.

I was more than willing to go through this first round of bills. The member will know that I probably spoke once or twice on the need to raise the age of consent. I am more than willing to speak a lot more this time because I believe there is a reverse onus for the government to get serious, to stop playing games in this House and stop running these bills through again and again.

As far as my friend from Nepean—Carleton saying that I am not onside on raising the age of consent, he obviously does not do his homework. However, that is okay because I did not expect him to. I am sure the member for Abbotsford will know--or wherever it is in B.C. he is from. I get my places all mixed up once I get--

Tackling Violent Crime ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

An hon. member

It's all paradise.

Tackling Violent Crime ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am sure it is all paradise out there.

I am sure he would do his homework to know that I do take the issue of age of consent very seriously.

Tackling Violent Crime ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Liberal Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, when the NDP killed the previous government it killed a national early learning head start program for children. The police have even said that one of the most effective ways of preventing crime is to have an early learning head start program for children.

Why did the member's party kill the previous government and, in so doing, kill the early learning head start program that would have reduced youth crime by 60%?

Would the member support the government's initiative to criminalize low level drug dealers who are actually addicts paying for their addiction through drug dealing and whether those people should be treated as a medical problem rather than a judicial problem, differentiating them from the commercial grow operations and the organized crime gangs that are the real parasites that are trafficking and those are the real criminals in this equation?

Tackling Violent Crime ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, the number one rule in this House is that one should not lead with one's chin.

Why would the member continue to give us credit for bringing down a government that the Canadian people were so sick of that they threw out? I think it does misrepresentation to the will of the average Canadian citizen who recognized that the member's government was so hopelessly corrupt that it needed to be thrown out. However, if he wants to put all that credit on the 29 or 30 New Democrats, I am certainly willing to take some of that credit, but I think it is misplaced.

The reality is that the Liberal Party still does not get it. The Liberals misrepresented what they were here to do. They did not deliver on an early childhood education program. They did not come through with an environment program. They ran out of the red book for 12 or 13 years. One of the greatest pieces of electoral spin in history was that they just stripped the cover off the red book each election, put a new date on it and ran with the same issues again.

When the Liberals were in their final dying days, we remember the pathetic example on television of the former Liberal prime minister begging the people to give him until Gomery, to give him 30 days to 60 days and then he would call an election. He begged people to give his government a chance.

The election happened 30 days before that. However, in that period between the 30 days when we helped bring down that corrupt government and the former prime minister would have had his election, that was the moment when the Liberals took every unfulfilled promise that was ever put in the red book and flung it across the country as some great fulfilled national vision. No wonder the Canadian people threw them out.

Tackling Violent Crime ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I just want to remind hon. members about the rules in the Standing Orders relating to relevancy. I hope that all members, both in their questions and comments and in their speeches, stick as closely as possible to the actual substance of the bill.

I think we have time for one more question and comment. The hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster.

Tackling Violent Crime ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I enjoyed the presentation from the member for Timmins—James Bay. As always, he makes a lot of sense. Hopefully, members in the other three corners of the House will listen to what he said.

We had under the Liberals repeated promises that were always broken, whether that was the child care promise that was broken for 13 years, the aboriginal rights promise that was broken for 13 years or a whole variety of other promises that were broken.

Now we have the Conservatives who made a bunch of promises that they are now breaking and, in fact, on what they are attempting to bring through the House now in terms of justice. The member pointed to a number of measures that the Conservatives could have taken if they had been serious about being smart on crime but they did not.

Does the member believe that the Conservative government governs in the same way that the former corrupt Liberal government governed?

Tackling Violent Crime ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, that is such a wide open question, but I will try to stick close to hand to the subject of crime. There are not enough hours in the day for us to go through all the shenanigans of 13 years of Liberal corruption. I am sure the folks back home would love me to do an itemized list.

However, at the end of the day, the problem with what the former government failed to deliver and what it created was a major disconnect between what the Liberals said they would do and what they would actually do. I always take my advice from the best orator in history, the carpenter in Galilee, who said make your “yes” mean yes and your “no” mean no. We do not need spin. We do not need a message. We do not need it to be a wedge issue. We just need to stand and say that we will or we will not do it. The Liberal Party believed it never actually had to do it.

That brings us to the question of crime. We were sent here to enact laws and some of those laws have to do with crime and making sure that gangs are not running wild, that gun violence is being contained and that our police have the resources to deal with that. Our job is to listen to the problem and bring in legislation that actually works, make our “yes” mean yes and our “no” mean no.

Unfortunately, what we have seen here is a political game that has been played out where substantive issues of crime are being reduced to the wedge issues, being reduced to cheap spin and spin-doctoring and sometimes very paltry efforts at attacks by backbench members in the government party against other members who are actually doing their job.

If the government were trying to be different than the old corrupt Liberal Party, it would come forward with a simple plan, make it work and get on with the nation's business. Unfortunately, I have not seen it make that step yet.

Tackling Violent Crime ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the question to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment is as follows: the hon. member for Davenport, Justice.

Tackling Violent Crime ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am going to pick up where the member for Timmins—James Bay left off in terms of Bill C-2 and setting the context for what is very clearly hypocrisy from the Conservative government on justice issues.

The member for Timmins—James Bay talked about some of the areas where the Conservatives have taken no action or actually cut back on funding. That is an important starting point because if the government was really serious about tackling crime issues, it would take the NDP lead on being smart on crime. It would take the whole spectrum of measures that need to be taken to reduce crime rates and the number of victims in society.

Indeed, though there are some measures in this bill that the NDP can support, the reality is that this seems to be more political spin than an actual attempt to deal substantively with criminal justice issues and lowering the crime rate.

I will be addressing some of these points later on, but let us look at what is not in Bill C-2 and what has not been part of the Conservatives' justice platform since they were elected.

There is nothing to deal with youth at risk. We know that $1 invested in preventive crime measures actually saves $6 later on in policing costs, penal costs and justice costs. Yet, the Conservative government has done virtually nothing to provide support for youth at risk programs.

With regard to addiction programs, we know that certain countries have managed to achieve reduction rates of about 80% in addictions, particularly drug addicts. Countries, like Switzerland, have made very substantive leaps forward in reducing the number of addicts.

We know that when we reduce the number of addicts, we essentially reduce the crimes committed by those addicts in their addicted frenzy, trying to find their next fix. Many innocent Canadians get hurt and yet the government has done nothing to put in place addiction programs to lower the addiction rate and reduce the crime rate at the same time.

We have seen an utter failure by the government in supporting community policing. It talked about increasing the number of police officers, however, it has done absolutely nothing substantive to support communities from coast to coast to coast that are looking for funding for community policing.

One of the two communities I represent, New Westminster, has an extraordinarily high cost for policing that was passed on to the federal government. The federal government did nothing to support the community of New Westminster and its extraordinarily high policing costs that were undertaken because of actions by the government.

It is the same with the other community of Burnaby because of the refusal by the government to restore the cutbacks that we saw under the previous Liberal governments for the RCMP, where there was a shortage of front line police officers. There is no support for community policing or for the overall crime prevention measures, whether it is safety audits or other community initiatives to reduce crime.

What the government does is it shovels billions of dollars out the back of a truck to the corporate sector in tax cuts. We are talking about record levels of corporate profits and all the government can do is shovel money off the back of a truck to the corporate sector rather than provide support for community policing, youth at risk programs, addiction programs and crime prevention measures.

The government funds none of those programs. It just shovels money to its corporate friends. It is the same old, same old. That is exactly how the former Liberal government acted. We see, generally speaking, no concrete measures being taken.

In terms of the international initiatives undertaken by the government, we see a clear contradiction with the purported aims of Bill C-2. Even today in question period there was a refusal by the government to stop crimes against humanity in Darfur. There was a refusal to do anything about that.

Yesterday, at the trade committee, Conservatives and Liberals were working together to ditch the NDP motion that would put an end to the trade negotiations taking place with Colombia. This is extremely important because we know the Colombian government is linked to crimes. There were summary executions, hundreds of them this year by the Colombian military. Dozens of trade unionists were killed by paramilitaries connected to the Colombian government and yet, instead of the government saying these crimes must be punished and taking a stand, it is actually rewarding the Colombian government linked to crimes against humanity by negotiating a trade agreement.

That is symbolic of just how hypocritical the government is. People can commit crimes. They just have to do it in dress suits or be connected with a right-wing government and then it is all right.

That just does not wash with most Canadians. They understand the hypocrisy that when a Colombian regime, paramilitaries, or the Colombian military commits crimes against humanity, commits murder, instead of being rewarded with a trade agreement, the Canadian government should be condemning them.

That is the hypocrisy between how Conservatives act when somebody is in a dress suit or when somebody is in a military uniform in Colombia, as opposed to how they purport to act by bringing this legislation forward.

Let us look at the process around Bill C-2, which is another symbol of the hypocrisy of the Conservative government.

Sixty per cent of what was in the bill was before the Senate. We have seen with this Senate, though it is Liberal-dominated, that it has done absolutely nothing to stop the Conservative agenda. Liberals work in cooperation with the Conservatives.

The Conservatives essentially have a functional majority in Parliament because the Liberal members have given up their right to be a member of the opposition. They sit on their hands. They do not protest anything. They accept anything the Conservatives hand out, and essentially those justice bills were in the process of being passed by the Senate.

The other chamber passed the softwood sellout, which was clearly not in Canada's interest, in 72 hours. This justice legislation would have been passed, but instead, the government withdrew it, took all the legislation back and now is resubmitting it to the House. It was a delay of months. If that is not hypocrisy, I do not know what is.

Essentially, they were right at the finish line, as we were with the softwood sellout winning in American courts. We were at the finish line and the government said, “No, we do not actually want this stuff to pass now”. It prorogued Parliament and reintroduced the bills in order to have the same debates all over the place because it is not really serious about taking action on justice issues. The Conservatives are not serious about community policing or crime prevention measures, dealing with addiction, or dealing with youth at risk. No, they are not serious about that, but they want to pretend that they are, so they are going to reintroduce all this legislation. Now it is here before us today.

The Conservatives said they wanted to deal with dangerous offenders. That is part of what they wanted to do. They said that this bill would deal with it, and as the member for Abbotsford well knows, because he has been doing the same kind of mailings into my riding that the member for Timmins—James Bay mentioned earlier, this legislation will be thrown out under a charter challenge.

It is important to note that the NDP submitted amendments at committee and in this House, and has been consistently saying to the government that since it knows it will be thrown out under a charter challenge, since it knows this legislation cannot work, because we do live under a Constitution, since it knows that, let us do the smart thing and remove the caps on dangerous offender designation.

Let us look at what is in the bill. I will read it because it is important for Canadians to know the intense hypocrisy of the government. It says:

--an application under subsection (1) not later than six months after that imposition;

It is repeated in paragraph (b):

--that is not later than six months after the imposition of sentence--

It is still in the bill, the limit of six months. Is that important? Yes it is. The balcony rapist, Mr. Paul Callow, who was released because of these provisions that are currently in the Criminal Code, continued by this Conservative government, was released into the community because there was no provision in the Criminal Code for designation later in sentence of a dangerous offender.

That is important because in this case, this individual did not go through the required treatment programs, and this individual reportedly and allegedly assaulted a nurse in prison.

Under this Conservative justice bill that is before us now, the same situation can arise tomorrow, next week or next year because the six month deadline for the designation of a dangerous offender still exists.

It is not as if the government did not know. The member for Windsor—Tecumseh, who has been voted by all members of this House as the most knowledgeable member of Parliament in this Parliament, told the government repeatedly, warned the government and sent letters. He went to committee and he brought forward the amendment.

Liberals and Conservatives, obviously not having the slightest understanding of what was actually in the bill, refused to adopt the amendment. Then it was brought forward to the House. There was the same rejection from Liberals and Conservatives.

Therefore, we are now looking at a bill that allows the exact same circumstances that happened earlier this year to happen again because the government does not seem to be serious about criminal justice issues.

When we take a smart on crime approach, we have to look at everything: crime prevention measures, funding for that, funding for community policing, and changes to the Criminal Code that actually address the issues. We do not look at changes to the Criminal Code that are simply there as make-up to pretend that we are doing our job.

Perhaps the most egregious aspect of this whole process of putting forward legislation, of pulling back the legislation, of putting forward the legislation again, refusing to heed the advice that the government received from committee representatives and witnesses who appeared before the government, and refusing to heed the advice of the most knowledgeable member of Parliament in the House, as voted by members of the House of Commons, is that we are back to exactly the same situation that we were in last spring with no capability to provide for dangerous offender designation later in the sentence. That is the appalling thing about this whole process.

It is appalling to hear the hypocrisy when crimes are committed internationally. The Conservatives simply say, “That's fine. You can commit a crime. You can commit a murder if you're a member of the Colombia military. You can do these things. We don't care. At home we are going to pay lip service to some aspects of dealing with criminal justice issues, but by no means all of them and by no means in the comprehensive way that is required”.

That is the net result of what we have before us. Some of the elements I have supported and some of the elements other NDP members have supported, but the process disappoints me enormously. The process points to the fact that the government is not serious about these issues. What it wants to get is political spin out of this. It does not want to deal in a concrete way with all aspects of the criminal justice system,

Perhaps the clearest hypocrisy is that the government surely does not want to change its priorities of forking out, shovelling out, billions of dollars to the corporate sector in tax gifts. It certainly does not want to change that focus to actually adequately funding the programs that will reduce the number of victims.

In other words, if there is a victim, there are certainly some enforcement measures in the bill, but the government does not do anything to actually reduce the number of victims through youth at risk, through addiction programs, through community policing, or through crime prevention measures. That is the most appalling thing.

I would like to move on to one of the other elements. Today in the Ottawa Citizen it was revealed that the federal Minister of Justice has received studies prepared by his own department that indicate that his own criminal justice measures will not work.

I will read this into the record because I think this is very relevant to the debate we are having on Bill C-2. Some of the provisions of Bill C-2 are improvements, but generally speaking the overall so-called crime fighting agenda of the government is designed for political spin. It is not designed for the kind of practical measures that do make a difference. The article by Richard Foot states:

[The] federal Justice Minister is pressing ahead with plans to create mandatory minimum prison terms for drug crimes in spite of two studies prepared for his own department that say such laws don't work, and are increasingly unpopular as crime-fighting measures in other countries.

That is from the study for the minister himself: minimum sentences are not an effective sentencing tool with regard to drug crime. That is one conclusion of these reports prepared for the justice department itself.

The report states in regard to mandatory minimum sentences that “while they show success in deterring firearms or drunk driving crimes”, and those are measures we have supported in this legislation, “particularly among repeat offenders, they appear to have no impact on drug crime”.

Of course, the justice minister did not respond to any requests for interviews on this particular subject.

I think this begs the big question. If some of the measures that are most effective in reducing the crime rate have not been considered by the government, and in fact most of the measures we have outlined today that actually do reduce the crime rate have not been considered by the government at all, and if the departmental studies that the Minister of Justice gets in his own department indicate that some of his legislation is flawed, the question is, where are the Conservatives getting their advice?

The government had recommendations from the most knowledgeable member of Parliament in this House, the member for Windsor—Tecumseh. He indicated very clearly that what was needed was the provision for later in sentence designation of dangerous offender. He indicated that it would have an effect and avoid the kind of loopholes that led to the balcony rapist being released into our community of New Westminster with no support whatsoever. He was put into a homeless shelter and, of course, according to the rules of the homeless shelter, it put him out onto the streets every day.

We can imagine the impact on our community of that kind of wrong-headed approach to criminal justice measures, yet not a single member of the Conservative caucus and certainly not the justice minister, no one within the Conservative caucus, actually took action to close that loophole. As we saw, the loophole is very much still there. This legislation that the justice minister is bringing forward and which the Conservatives say we should adopt still has the loophole.

So the Conservative political spin about actually dealing with that issue is very clearly nothing but spin. The studies indicating that some of the other legislation coming forward is ineffective come from the justice minister's own department.

If what is very clearly here in place is legislation that does not do what it is purported to do, that does not deal with the issues it is supposed to deal with, then we have to ask the question, what is the real agenda here? The real agenda appears to be trying to have this Conservative government campaign on crime and justice issues without having done a whole lot on those issues.

The government has flawed legislation, admittedly flawed legislation, that it has not worked to improve. In fact, there is legislation that was almost passed but that the government has now pulled back. The former justice minister was fired because of the admittedly poor nature of some of the legislation coming forward.

Most importantly, the key components of crime prevention in lowering the crime rate and actually producing fewer victims have been ignored or cut back by this government: youth at risk programs, crime prevention measures such as safety audits, community policing funding, which has been sorely inadequate, as it was under the former Liberal government, and addiction programs.

All of those measures would make a difference. All of those measures have been ignored by the government. All of those measures have been simply put aside.

As for the priority of the government, disappointing I think to any Canadian who looked at what was being promised and expected at least that the Conservatives would put into place some realistic funding envelopes that would actually address these issues they campaigned on, instead of having that as the priority, the Conservatives have put into place a priority of shovelling billions of taxpayers' dollars into tax gifts to the wealthiest of Canada's corporations.

That is why the government's real record is so disappointing. That is why when we look at Bill C-2 we can only look at it, with some good elements, as a missed opportunity.

Tackling Violent Crime ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have listened carefully to my colleague from British Columbia, the member for Burnaby—New Westminster. I was astounded to hear him make the categorical statement that this legislation will be turned down by the courts. In other words, it is not going to pass muster at the Supreme Court of Canada.

That is typical. Whenever our government has come forward with legislation that is going to get tough on crime in Canada and make our streets and communities safer, the typical response we get from the NDP is that we are trampling on the rights of the criminals, of the accused. There is one word that we never hear from the NDP--

Tackling Violent Crime ActGovernment Orders

November 28th, 2007 / 4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Myron Thompson Conservative Wild Rose, AB

Victims.

Tackling Violent Crime ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Victims. Exactly. My colleague from the Conservative Party got that right. We never hear the word “victims” from the NDP. The victims are the ones who are caught in the middle.

I would suggest that the member for Burnaby—New Westminster consider his position. Again, after all the railing against this legislation, Bill C-2, which he just finished after some 20 minutes of rambling and ranting, I am astounded by the fact of what he did yesterday when he had a chance to stand and say he is against getting tough on crime. What did he do? He stood and voted in favour of the legislation. How can that be? I ask the member that.

Tackling Violent Crime ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, obviously the member for Abbotsford was asleep at the switch again, because he knows full well that the dangerous offender provisions do not do what we need to have in this legislation. Despite the fact that the NDP pushed that legislation and said to close the loophole on the six month limit, the Conservatives refused to close the loophole. So the loophole is in the legislation and the member knows that full well.

The issue is not that the Conservatives are tough on crime. They are stupid on crime, no offence, but what we essentially have here is legislation with none of the funding in place for community policing, none of the funding in place for crime prevention, none of the funding in place for addiction programs, and none of the funding that actually reduces the number of victims.

If the member had been listening, and I wish that for once Conservative members would actually listen to what is being said in this House rather than always reading from their prepared text and their talking points from the Prime Minister's Office and never deviating from that, as I say, if he had actually listened, he would have heard references at least a dozen times to victims.

To say that because the Conservatives have brought forward amendments to the Criminal Code, even if they do not do what they are expected to do, and while they have refused to provide all of the funding that actually reduces the crime rate, such as crime prevention programs and policing that they are strangling by their refusal to fund while they spend billions in corporate tax gifts, what he is doing is simply proving my point: the Conservatives are hypocritical on crime issues.

Tackling Violent Crime ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Liberal Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, in Vancouver we have a serious problem, as we do across the country, in terms of the epidemic of HIV-AIDS and other blood-borne pathogens that kill a lot of people. Some of that, of course, is driven by the sharing of needles and addictions, particularly narcotics.

I would like to ask my NDP colleague from British Columbia whether or not his party will support our party in trying to convince the government to support not only a longer term expansion for the life of the Insite supervised injection program in Vancouver, but also--

Tackling Violent Crime ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order. I made a comment earlier today about questions and comments being relevant to the bill before the House. I am afraid that I just do not find anything relating to Bill C-2 in the question. If the hon. member has a question relevant to the bill, I will allow it.

Tackling Violent Crime ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Liberal Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. The relevance, of course, is the connection between drug use and crime. I want to ask the member again if he supports the expansion of supervised injection sites across the country and also the NAOMI project, which is a narcotic substitution program that saves lives and reduces crime.

Tackling Violent Crime ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

There is just very little in Bill C-2 regarding some of the issues the member has raised. If the hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster can answer the question with some relevance to Bill C-2, I will allow him a chance to respond.

Tackling Violent Crime ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member for Vancouver East, who is also the NDP House leader, has been the foremost proponent of issues around Insite. I will take it through its more global context. The reality is that there are best practices around the world and the government could have learned from them.

If the government were sincere about dealing with crime issues, it would not be cutting and hacking back on funding for community policing or crime prevention programs. We know very well that $1 spent there saves $6 later on in policing costs, penal costs and justice costs. It just makes good sense from a taxpayer's point of view. It also lowers the number of victims.

If the government were sincere, it would be tackling those best practices instead of bringing forward legislation that, although it does some good things, and that is why I will vote for it, does not do nearly what is required for the government to reduce the crime rate. That is the issue. It is hypocritical, because those members are not willing to walk the talk.

Tackling Violent Crime ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

NDP

Catherine Bell NDP Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is always a pleasure to sit through a discourse from my colleague from Burnaby—New Westminster. He talked about the hypocrisy of why we are at this point in the discussions today and also about the partisan politics being played around these crime bills.

I think it is important to talk about forward-looking leadership on the prevention of crime and the things the NDP talks about. I want to quote my hon. colleague from Windsor--Tecumseh. In his speech, he talked about the five parts of Bill C-2, four of which the NDP is okay with and one we are having some trouble with. He mentioned that quite eloquently in his speech.

The most knowledgeable member of Parliament, the member for Windsor--Tecumseh, said:

--the balance of the bill had provisions in it that either we had ourselves brought forward in the last election in our platform or were prepared to support the government on because we felt that it was in the best interests of Canada. It actually either protected people or met the requirement of having to make amendments to the Criminal Code where it was long past needing these amendments....

The member for Windsor—Tecumseh went on to talk about prevention and named some of those things. A little later on, he said:

--the greater majority of this bill is a bill that we looked at and said that, yes, these are good provisions, these are provisions that make sense in terms of building a fair, equitable justice system that protects our society.

I want to ask my hon. colleague if he could give us more examples of the kinds of things that could be put in place to reduce crime, examples of the preventative measures that Canadians are asking for.

Tackling Violent Crime ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I know that my colleague from Vancouver Island North is concerned about criminal justice issues and she has been doing a remarkable job in the House of Commons.

She raises an interesting point. We are going back over the same legislation for I think the third or fourth time now. It is much the same legislation. The Conservatives insert it, bring it back to the House, put it in the Senate, prorogue the House, and then reintroduce it in a new form.

The Conservatives have been playing a shell game with Canadians. It is really tragic and unfortunate that they are playing this shell game around criminal justice legislation while at the same time cutting back on what are the key areas to actually reduce the crime rate. We have mentioned some of them: youth at risk programs, community policing programs, crime prevention programs, things such as safety audits for neighbourhoods and apartment buildings, and things like addiction programs. In other countries, all of these measures have led to a substantial drop in the crime rate.

The Conservative government seemingly only takes on legislation very much on the American model. Some of the legislation is good. Some of it is very poorly crafted. The end result is not going to be what it promised Canadians.