Mr. Speaker, I thank my party for allowing me to speak this evening. It is a great privilege.
I must tell my colleague, the member for Palliser, that the Bloc Québécois is not opposed to this bill. We will support it so that it can be referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. I obviously hope that the committee resumes its work.
As an aside, we are chaired by the very impetuous member for Calgary Northeast, who is a former police officer. He has unfortunately made rulings that do not comply with the Standing Orders. Since then, committee work has come to a stop. On the opposition side, the committee is made up of likeable, reasonable people who want to put in an honest day's work, but unfortunately we are unable to do so because the committee is not sitting.
That said, I think that our fellow citizens need to understand the contents of this bill. In our justice system, there are two types of pre-trial release. In the bill, the member is referring to section 515 of the Criminal Code, which has to do with judicial release, often referred to as release on bail. Bail is a condition that will determine whether or not a person who has yet to go to trial will be released, provided he or she abides by some conditions.
The conditions can be financial. In this case, the individual could be required to deposit a sum of money. The conditions can be related to movements. The justice of the peace can order individuals to stay in the city, to hand over their passport, or can prohibit them from contacting the victim. A justice of the peace can impose all kinds of conditions as part of the judicial release. So, in his bill, the member is referring to section 515 of the Criminal Code.
There are also situations where it is not possible to be released from custody, for example, for an offence set out in section 469 of the Criminal Code. The justice of the peace must keep a person in custody if he or she has been convicted of murder and, obviously, very serious offences. There are also situations which involve reverse onus, for example, when an individual is accused of terrorism or gang-related crimes. The accused must prove that he or she is not a threat to society. Only by proving this to a justice of the peace can the individual be released.
The hon. member for Palliser wishes to include a very clear provision in the Criminal Code stating that in the case of a serious personal injury offence, an individual cannot be released on bail until the justice of the peace has been presented with evidence. We are talking about murder, manslaughter, a number of sexual offences and violent crimes.
To the Bloc Québécois, that does not seem to be unreasonable; it is certainly founded. With his bill, the member is correcting the current situation whereby if the Crown does not oppose releasing the individual, the prosecutor may not have to present evidence or the circumstances under which the offence was committed. The Bloc Québécois is not opposed to this bill.
We did have information according to which, in the case of serious injury, the Crown does not allow individuals to be freed. Very often, we have information stating that the evidence has been presented.
All the same, our colleague from Palliser made statements in this House to illustrate that that was not done in at least one case, and that unfortunately, that case turned out to be fatal for his friend Michel. We fully understand the battle he plans to fight, and we will support him in that. This kind of work certainly gives meaning to the activities of parliamentarians.
We know that we also have to be rigorous in criminal law cases, because criminal law can result in the deprivation of liberty.
I do not know if the Bloc Québécois will support the bill as written. We will be pleased to hear witnesses, but the committee has to do its work, of course. I must tell the House that at least three committees are currently experiencing obstruction because the Conservatives are refusing to follow the Standing Orders. However, I do not hold the member for Palliser responsible. He is a likeable, naturally gregarious man, and a good-natured businessman. Therefore, I do not hold him responsible for the bad behaviour of certain other committee chairs.
For instance, the work of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development and, until very recently, the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs was obstructed because, unfortunately, members of the government majority refused to cooperate and enforce the regulations. However, I do not hold the hon. member for Palliser responsible for his colleagues' misdeeds and he will have the support of the Bloc Québécois, so that we can study the bill once the committee reconvenes.
This leads me to emphasize that extreme caution is required when it comes to matters of criminal law. I cannot fully go into it at this time. We must appreciate the witnesses who appear before us and appreciate the testimony of our colleague from Palliser.
The Bloc Québécois has always been extremely cautious when it comes to reverse onus. It can be justified under certain circumstances, but the notion of reverse onus requires considerable caution. As we all know, reverse onus goes against the presumption of innocence.
I must say that in the past, under certain circumstances, the Conservative government asked us for reverse onus. We did not agree because we did not believe it to be necessary. I will reserve judgment until we have completed our work in committee.
The Bloc Québécois, because it is a responsible party and the leading political force in Quebec, also presented recommendations in June 2007. I did so with my colleague from Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, the member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin and the member for Ahuntsic. At the request of the Leader of the Bloc Québécois, the member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie, I chaired a working group to recommend measures to improve the judicial system.
I have to say that I made a certain number of recommendations. When it is my turn—I am the 123rd member on the list—I may table a bill to implement these measures. Or I may table a bill to fight poverty. I hope that, with the help of my friends, I will have the support of all my colleagues in this House.
To conclude, I congratulate the hon. member for Palliser on his bill. I wish him well in his fight to honour the memory of Michelle. We will be pleased to listen seriously to the witnesses who come before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. I wish him all the best in the future.