Mr. Speaker, this is clearly an extremely important debate because even though it is about a bill that is—if not exactly technical—fairly precise, it encompasses the Conservative government's vision of the balance between justice and security, a balance that, unfortunately, seems to be more and more upset because of an extremely dangerous ideological approach.
When I see a bill like this one, I cannot help but think of how debates are run in this House and in public by this government, particularly by the Prime Minister.
In that sense, we have good reason to be very worried about the fact that they are taking so lightly a bill to amend the Criminal Code and other acts—a bill that may have enormous consequences for a large part of our population—by using arguments that, more often than not, are not based in fact. That is what I found during question period again today.
When the Prime Minister said that the Bloc Québécois did not support the upcoming bill on income trusts, he was deceiving the people. He was misleading them. What we are trying to do is fix the Prime Minister's broken promise. During the election campaign, he said that he would not touch the tax laws on income trusts, which was completely irresponsible. Then on October 31, he made a surprise decision to break his promise, a decision that affected 2.5 million small investors.
The Bloc Québécois is trying, in a responsible way, to minimize the negative impact on those Canadians and Quebeckers who unfortunately believed the promise the Prime Minister made during the election campaign.
Recently, the Minister of Industry was distributing a document in the riding of a colleague of mine. The document stated that the government had passed a law allowing pension income splitting between spouses and doubling the tax credit for private pension income. Such a bill has not even been tabled yet. We do not even know if that will be in the budget or in a separate bill.
It is not true. The government is disguising the truth for partisan and ideological purposes.
It reminds me of a hippocampus. I am not referring to the sea horse, the little fish that swims in an upright position. When I speak of a hippocampus, I mean the mythical animal that was half horse, half fish. This government makes me think of a hippocampus, because it has two sides and it is manipulating morality by presenting only one side of this issue. This is unacceptable in a debate as important as this one.
I would remind you that this bill seeks to declare someone convicted of three serious crimes a dangerous offender, unless that person can prove that the definition does not apply to him or her. The burden of proof is therefore reversed. In our opinion, this bill is harmful and ineffective and will not help to improve public safety.
What is the government doing to sell this ideological vision of repression? It is implying that safety in our cities is being compromised, in Canada and Quebec. Yet for decades the crime rate—especially the rate of violent crime—has been declining. I am not trying to trivialize the problem. I recognize that we must ensure that, especially in our major cities—I am thinking about street gangs, for instance—the necessary social and economic measures are in place to prevent this problem. But this is not where the government is headed. We are fooling ourselves.
Studies show that automatically applying harsher penalties will not produce the desired results. The real question, then, is: What is the best way to prevent crime? What is the best way to protect the public? It is certainly not to toughen the Criminal Code in this way, but to invest in literacy and women's groups and to maintain funding for programs such as the summer career placement program. But this is not the approach the government has chosen.
In that sense, this bill is not an isolated measure. It is part of an overall ideological approach that is extremely dangerous to the future of Canada.
This is true for Canada and for Quebec. What we are defending is a model of justice based on a process tailored to each case and based on the principle of rehabilitation.
We have already had a debate in this House on young offenders. Unfortunately, the Bloc Québécois was the only party to propose this approach that is characteristic of Quebec society, whereby prevention and rehabilitation are better avenues than repression for ensuring the safety of our cities, our land and our people. In that sense, the U.S. example is striking and should serve as a lesson. Unfortunately, it seems that the government is blind to this reality. A procedure already exists.
In Quebec, the justice department reached agreements with the Philippe-Pinel Institute to conduct psychological assessments. I know some experts at this institute because they are members of the Confédération des syndicats nationaux, the union for which I was the secretary for eight years. These experts have credibility before the courts.
Based on the findings of the assessment report, the prosecutor decides whether or not to seek a dangerous offender designation. The experts assess the person, his or her psychological weaknesses and his or her rehabilitative potential. With the assessment, a fully informed decision can be made.
This bill proposes that after the third offence, the alleged criminal would automatically have to demonstrate that he is not a dangerous offender. There is a system. After the assessment report is presented to the judge, the defence can present a second opinion. In the end, the judge makes a ruling.
Perhaps we can improve on certain criteria and make sure of certain things. Nonetheless, we already have a procedure that has been proven to work for the past number of years. What this government is proposing is totally excessive.
As I said, it will provide a false sense of security. Thus—and we will see in the next budget—the provinces and Quebec will have few resources to successfully address the real causes of crime, namely poverty, isolation, addiction and a host of other social problems.
I would like to reiterate that we believe this approach is not only ideological, but it also deceives the population because it does not allow us to address the underlying problems. This places a much heavier onus on the accused. Any accused person who wishes to challenge the assessment filed in support of designating him or her as a dangerous offender will have to ask for an expensive second opinion. Not everyone will have the means to do so. Not everyone will have access to the necessary professional legal services. Since the offender could spend the rest of his or her life in prison, it seems reasonable that the government should have to bear the burden of proof when designating dangerous offenders. We could ask ourselves what this government's next step will be. Will they begin to question the entire existing principle that an individual is innocent until proven guilty? It would then be up to defendants to prove their innocence.
As the statistics remind us, there are scores of adverse effects. In this regard, I would like the Prime Minister to use his hippocampus, and I am not talking about the mythical animal I referred to at the beginning of my speech, but rather that complex neural structure shaped like a sea horse, which is the part of the brain that controls memory.
If the Prime Minister could just listen to the facts and remember them when the time comes to draft legislation, all Canadians would be now much safer.