Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to speak to Bill C-10 today. Essentially, the purpose of this bill is to significantly increase minimum sentences for firearms related offences.
In his speech, my colleague who spoke just now accused the opposition of being small-minded and hypocritical, among other things, about Bill C-10 in the parliamentary committee and in the House of Commons. I feel I must explain that the Bloc has disagreed throughout the Bill C-10 process not because of surface issues but because of substantive issues. The approach the government is seeking to initiate with this bill is damaging and dangerous, and we do not think it will bring about concrete results.
The Conservative government's approach, as expressed in Bill C-10, is contrary to the approach Quebeckers have always wanted, an approach that often produces real results. We have always focused on prevention and rehabilitation. I remember the debates on young offenders here in the House of Commons, debates that were led by the then member for Berthier—Montcalm, who was our party's justice critic.
We proved that Quebec's approach to the issue produced results and that the prevention and rehabilitation approach justified supporting a point of view that, while diametrically opposed to the one proposed by the federal government, nevertheless maintained the social equilibrium we needed. Members of the Bloc Québécois are against this bill because it is damaging and ineffective and will not make our citizens safer.
We are among those in this House who believe that to reduce violence in our society, we must work on prevention. We believe that we must implement measures such as gun control. We believe that we must, for example, reduce the amount of violence on television. This is the purpose of my bill to amend the Canadian Broadcasting Act. We belive that we must take preventive measures to reduce violence on television, which is the complete opposite of the government's approach in Bill C-10.
Also, we believe that minimum sentences unnecessarily tie the hands of judges, who remain in the best position to determine what sentence is the most appropriate in light of all the facts of the case. The Robert Latimer case, where a man who wanted to end the suffering of his 12-year-old daughter, took her life out of compassion, shows that although this man was sentenced to 25 years in prison, the judges' assessment was quite different. The problem with these minimum sentences is that some sentences are not really commensurate with the person's actions. The sentence should be personalized, instead of having a mandatory minimum penalty that often does not fit the crime committed.
Third, experts indicate that the use of minimum sentences does not lower crime rates or recidivism rates. I would remind the House about a study conducted in 1997 for the Department of Justice Canada by University of Ottawa criminologist Julian Roberts. Mr. Roberts concluded that: “mandatory sentences of imprisonment have been introduced in a number of western nations. ... The studies that have examined the impact of these laws reported variable effects on prison populations, and no discernible effect on crime rates.”
Clearly, the impact of minimum sentences has not been conclusive. When we look at the statistics, even though the government tries to ignore them and says that the opposition is manipulating the figures, the fact remains that homicide rates—including first and second degree murder, and manslaughter—have dropped by 36% in recent years.
During that time, crime rates did not increase. The homicide rate did not increase. On the contrary, it fell. In 1975, there were three victims for every 100,000 inhabitants. In 2004, by contrast, there were only 1.95 for every 100,000 inhabitants. Thus, in recent years, we have not seen an increase in the homicide rate. On the contrary, it went down.
The problem with the approach the government would like to take is that it tries to copy an American model, a model initiated south of the border. But our statistics are different from those of the United States.
In the United States, in 2003, there were five victims for every 100,000 inhabitants. In Canada, we had 1.73 victims for every 100,000 inhabitants and in Quebec there were 1.34 for every 100,000 inhabitants. They would like the public to believe that the homicide rate has increased; but that is completely false as it has decreased by 36%. The government wants policies from south of the border to be adopted here in Canada. That is completely wrong. Better results will not be achieved by handing down longer or more prison terms. On the contrary. If you believe in prevention and rehabilitation and look at Quebec's example, you will realize that the results are a good deal better than those south of the Canadian border. That is why we are opposed to Bill C-10.
In the two minutes I have left, I will say that rather than increasing minimum sentences, the government should be reviewing the parole process. My colleague from Ahuntsic probably gave the best example in question period yesterday when she asked the Minister of Public Safety the following question:
—a halfway house in my riding, located very close to an elementary school, houses Clermont Bégin, a sexual predator whom the National Parole Board still considers very dangerous. My constituents are worried.
Setting aside the fine work being done by the staff at this halfway house, does the Minister of Public Safety think it is right that a facility like this, located fewer than 300 metres from an elementary school, is housing sexual predators?
Consequently, rather than looking at increasing minimum sentences, the government should carry out a review of the parole board process.
In closing, I will say that we are opposed to this bill. Our reasons for opposing it are not superficial. There are fundamental issues and cosmetic amendments will not satisfy the approach proposed by the Bloc Québécois. We believe in prevention and in rehabilitation. For these reasons we are opposed to Bill C-10.