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.