Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I rise today in this place to express my support for Bill C-10, and my desire and hope that all members will see fit to support this bill as well.
Bill C-10 is one of a suite of government initiatives that we have introduced in this House in an attempt to get tough on crime. We have seen several other initiatives pass before this House in debate, but unfortunately, I must say at the outset my concern is that members of the opposition, particularly the official opposition, seem to have tried, almost on a continuous basis, to obstruct debate on these bills.
I speak of Bill C-10 now because we have seen many times before when debate has been engaged that members of the official opposition have moved concurrence motions to interrupt that debate.
Again I must say that despite the fact that we have given our best efforts to try to introduce legislation that not only would get tough on crime, but in doing so would protect Canadian citizens and Canadian communities, we have seen a concerted effort by members of the opposition to water down bills in committee. When that has not worked, they have tried to obstruct introduction and debate of these bills in this place.
I can only say that I find that to be unconscionable, quite frankly, because I think that these bills, even though there may be genuine differences of opinion by members of the opposition, at least deserve the opportunity to be debated fully in this place. Any attempts that we have seen by members of the opposition to interrupt such debate is, as I mentioned before, unconscionable. I am very pleased today to see that at least this day we have an opportunity to continue debate on this very important bill.
It is important that members of this House and other Canadians who may be watching this debate understand fully the implications behind Bill C-10 and its intent. Quite frankly, Bill C-10 is an attempt to increase and impose mandatory minimum sentences on those individuals convicted of crimes, either gang related or firearm related crimes.
Mandatory minimum sentences are initiatives to which all opposition parties in the last federal election committed in their own campaign platforms. We had been very clear in our commitment that if elected, we would introduce legislation that would deal with mandatory minimum sentences for a number of offences, use and non-use offences that have dealt with firearms.
If I recall, the Liberal Party during the last election campaign also supported those initiatives. In fact the Liberals said that if they were elected, they would ask that mandatory minimum sentences be doubled if they formed government. In fact just the opposite was true. When Bill C-10 was introduced at committee, we saw a combined opposition, primarily led by the Liberal Party of Canada, that seemed to gut Bill C-10.
I found it to be somewhat hypocritical that on one hand, during the campaign when Canadian voters were examining which political party they wished to vote for, on the issues of law and order and crime in general, the Liberals said at that time that should they be elected to government, they would be introducing legislation that would double the mandatory minimums for gun related and gang related offences. Yet what happened in reality away from the spotlight of an election campaign, in committee we saw that the Liberals wanted to gut the bill and in fact remove all but two of the clauses of that bill.
On one hand, the Liberals spoke to the Canadian electorate about one thing, but the reality is that when they got behind the closed doors of the committee chambers, they did quite another. I find that to be quite reprehensible.
I believe that Canadians deserve to be treated with respect, and we saw anything but that with respect to the Liberals with Bill C-10.
Luckily, however, we have seen that the member for Windsor—Tecumseh, the hon. member representing the NDP, has found it in his heart and in his party's heart to restore some of the initiatives contained in Bill C-10 and support us in getting this bill passed through this place and to eventually make it into law. I applaud the member for Windsor—Tecumseh for his initiative and support in this matter.
What the bill states, quite frankly, quite clearly and quite simply, is that if someone is convicted of a first offence, gang, gun or firearm related, there would be a five year minimum sentence imposed by the judiciary. For any second or subsequent offence, it would be a seven year minimum sentence.
This is a reasonable approach. In fact, when the original Bill C-10 was introduced, we wanted even tougher legislation. We wanted five years for the first offence or conviction, seven years for the second, and then 10 years for the third and subsequent offences. However, again the opposition decided to gut that provision and without the support of the member for Windsor—Tecumseh, we would see Bill C-10 in a state nowhere near the original bill that it was intended to be.
However, I think we have struck a reasonable compromise with the support of our colleagues from the NDP in restoring at least some of the provisions of the original Bill C-10 , so that now we see that we will be getting support to impose five year minimum sentences on the first offence and seven years for second and subsequent offences.
Not only do I think that is reasonable, but it reflects the will of the majority of the Canadian public. For too long Canadians have seen a justice system, and some would call it a revolving justice system, where individuals convicted of serious gun related crimes would far too often be back out on the street before the end of their sentences. In fact, time and time again people in my riding have said to me, “Why do you not do something, if you are finally elected and become the government of this land, about protecting Canadian citizens?”
I am a big believer in deterrents. I believe that if individuals who are considering the commission of a crime knew that if caught, sentenced and convicted, the sentence at the end of the day would be severe enough, that would act as an effective deterrent to the commission of that crime. In all cases, certainly not; in some cases, yes, I believe it would happen.
My point is that if we can do anything that would prevent or reduce the level of incidence of serious crimes, that is an initiative in which we as parliamentarians should be engaging. We should support those initiatives.
I have heard time and time again from members of the opposition that statistics tell a different story, that statistics say that deterrents such as mandatory minimums do not work. With all due respect, I disagree vehemently with the approach taken by the Liberals. I believe that deterrents do work and we should do everything in our power to set a course of action in our justice system in Canada to ensure that serious offences are dealt with severely.
I agree with members of the opposition when they say that greater effort should be put into trying to find ways to prevent crime from occurring originally. I agree with that. The Conservative Party of Canada agrees with that. The only difference I see between our party and opposition members is that when all exhaustive efforts to prevent crime from occurring fail and serious offences occur, the perpetrators should actually be punished and punished severely.
This is the essence behind Bill C-10, to impose mandatory minimums on individuals who commit gang related or firearm related offences. It will act as a deterrent. It is a bill that I ask all members of this place to support.