Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise here today to speak to Bill C-9. I will begin by saying that we will be voting against this bill.
I have been a member in this House for over four years. Twice now the people of Ahuntsic have given me the privilege of defending their interests and Quebec's interests with my Bloc Québécois colleagues.
My duties here have allowed me to witness first-hand the Conservative government's failure to act, and above all, its political grandstanding. In fact, even the name of the bill, the Jobs and Economic Growth Act, rather than the budget implementation bill, is itself an example of this smoke and mirrors act, as they try to convince the country that they are taking care of people.
In my speech on the budget implementation act, I will demonstrate that the government is trying to impose its right wing ideology to the detriment of women, children and even the victims it claims so loudly to defend.
First of all, consider the firearms registry. The underlying message of this budget is that the government wants to save all the pennies it can, putting the lives of our citizens in danger, particularly the lives of women and children, and even police officers. To save less than $3 million—the undisputed number from the RCMP—the government is supporting a bill that will exempt long guns from the current firearms registry, and 90% of all guns are long guns. And they are the weapons that kill the most women and children.
Before the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security on March 18, 2010, the Senior Deputy Commissioner of the RCMP, Bill Sweeney, expressed his support for maintaining the full gun registry and pointed out that there is ample evidence proving that the registry contributes to the safety of police officers and the public. He said:
I believe that there is compelling evidence that the registry promotes officer and public safety...I believe that there will be an opportunity for the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police to present to a cabinet committee that evidence.
It is clear that the gun registry not only allows for better coordination of law enforcement interventions, but also for the prevention of domestic tragedies by facilitating the seizure of weapons. It also makes it more difficult to steal firearms and easier to conduct and conclude police investigations, and that allows police to arrest criminals more quickly. The registry is consulted more than 12,000 times a day by more than 80% of police officers across Canada.
On the issue of the gun registry, the government has achieved an exceptional level of absurdity. For $3 million in so-called savings, the government, which has more than $242.2 million in expenditures in this budget, wants to compromise the safety of the public and law enforcement officers.
For the government, public safety is just another prop in their show. All the government ever does is put on shows and make the same old announcements. I have some examples. By the way, the shows are not very good.
The Minister of Public Safety made a major announcement on the sex offender registry by saying that the government will tighten its grip on pedophiles. We were told that $14 million was being allocated over two years for DNA analysis. It was a big show.
In fact, we were addressing this issue before the government prorogued the House and the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security had produced a report on the sex offender registry. Furthermore, in April 2009 our committee met with the directors of two major labs, one in Quebec and the other in Ontario. There are three major laboratories in Canada: those two and the third one, run by the RCMP, which does analyses.
We received Mr. Prime from the Centre of Forensic Sciences, and Mr. Dufour from the Laboratoire de sciences judiciaires et de médecine légale. These two labs do roughly 70% of all the tests. What did these directors say in April 2009? That not only was there no agreement with the federal government, but they also had to do a tremendous amount of tests—nearly 70% of the tests—with very little money.
This means that it can take up to a year to get the results of these tests.
On March 18, at the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, I questioned the minister about the funding for these laboratories. I was told that there still was no agreement in place and that Quebec still had not signed the agreement for the current year. So there is no agreement.
I asked how the $7 million a year would be split among these laboratories, and I got no answer. They do not know how they are going to divide up the money. Currently, each lab gets just over $2 million, so they will likely get exactly the same amount, with no increase. Once again, the government is making a great show of things, but in reality there is nothing new. Even worse, nothing is being done.
I want to tell my colleagues about something that is completely absurd. They say they want to crack down on pedophiles. No problem. Yet for the past three years—during which time there have been three public safety ministers—I have been warning the government and calling on the Conservatives to stop transferring pedophiles to Correctional Services halfway houses, also known as community correctional centres, near schools and daycare centres.
The Montreal school board has also been calling for this. It passed a resolution to that effect, but nothing was done. This does not require any investment of money—it does not cost a cent—and it does not even require that a law be passed. All it requires is a simple directive at Correctional Services. Did they agree? No. Three years later, they still have not done anything. What are they waiting for? I do not know. I hope with all my heart that they will not wait for a tragedy to occur before they do something, which is what usually happens.
I will give another example. For four years, this government has been saying that it is very concerned about victims of crime. So it makes a big deal about a paltry $6.6 million over two years to improve the federal victims strategy by making it easier for relatives of crime victims, specifically murder victims, to receive EI sickness benefits.
There is even a spokesperson who spouts all manner of falsehoods. I say “falsehoods” because I do not want to use unparliamentary language. I would use another word if I were not here in the House, but that is another story.
Why did they take four years to come up with a paltry $6.6 million? After putting on a show for four years, claiming to be there for the victims and feeling sorry for them, they did something, providing $6.6 million over two years. Why? On closer scrutiny, what do we find?
We know that the member for Compton—Stanstead introduced—more than once—Bill C-343 respecting the families of victims of crime. This bill would provide assistance in the form of employment insurance benefits not only to the families of murder victims, but also the families faced with the death of their minor child or the suicide of a spouse, common-law partner or child, and to parents whose minor child suffered a serious physical injury during the commission of a criminal offence. It would mean that any member of these families affected by tragedy could receive up to 52 weeks of benefits and maintain their employment relationship for up to two years.
What is the government proposing? It is proposing $3.3 million per year only for the families of murder victims, which boils down to approximately 15 weeks of benefits. We are asking for 52 weeks for a larger number of individuals. That is what I call really helping the victims of crime.
They are so frantic that, on March 19, Senator Boisvenu, their spokesperson, was still telling and writing falsehoods, not to use unparliamentary language, about Bill C-343. He attempted to defend the indefensible. We will see how absurd that was. He said that budget 2010 included an additional commitment of $52 million to help victims of crime and $6.6 million to support the parents of a murdered child through the EI program.
That is not true. There is no $52 million in the budget for the victims of crime. The Conservatives just love putting on smoke and mirrors shows. They are world champions at it. Unfortunately, these are not very good shows. I would not recommend them, because the shows are more pitiful than anything else.
I would like to speak about an issue that is important to me—crime prevention. We will see that they have a rather poor record. Crime prevention is not in their vocabulary. For the Conservatives, crime prevention is an obscure concept, one that they do not even understand. If they did, they would have thrown money at it since coming to power. I would say that previous governments did not do much more. However, the Conservatives claim that they are concerned about crime. Crime prevention is fundamental if we do not want people to become criminals. If we want to save our youth, we have to have prevention.
What if we are wrong? Well, I will prove that we are not wrong. We are not the only ones saying it.
There is nothing in the budget for prevention, there is nothing for the national crime prevention strategy. However, the National Crime Prevention Centre web site talks about providing communities tools, knowledge and support to undertake crime prevention initiatives in communities large and small across Canada. It is great to read that. It is encouraging.
This year, no new money has been allocated. Consequently, for over a year—and this may continue next year—the National Crime Prevention Centre, Quebec section, has been telling agencies in my riding, and they have told me as well, to not submit applications for new projects until further notice because it does not have any money and allocated amounts have already been disbursed.
I asked the minister about it when he came before the committee. It seems that no one could provide an answer. We will receive one in writing at some point, at least we hope so. I have dealt with a fair number of departments. It is fairly difficult to obtain information and a response from the department responsible for the NCPC. I will not go into that.
What are the Conservatives doing? They are doing the easiest thing, what they are paid to do and what they were sent here to do: they are making laws. Making laws is the easiest thing to do, unbelievably easy. However, making intelligent laws is not as easy, I can assure you. And when the time comes to put money into implementing those laws, it is a different story. Furthermore, there is always that narrow vision that would have us believe that putting more people in jail is in some way fighting crime. Let us just put people in jail and throw away the key and everything will be just fine. I am sorry, but no matter how many and how long the jail terms are, those individuals will be freed one day and once back on the streets they will be even more prone to crime and more dangerous.
Last Tuesday—as life and destiny sometimes take us to some cities at the right time—I was in Winnipeg where I replaced my colleague from Marc-Aurèle-Fortin at the justice and human rights committee, which was studying organized crime and street gangs. I must say that I was moved and touched by what I saw in Winnipeg, particularly by the condition of aboriginal children. All the witnesses we heard told us that more money was needed for prevention.
I met outstanding aboriginal women who work tirelessly for organizations in terrible neighbourhoods to save aboriginal children, to get them off the streets and to prevent them from being recruited by street gangs or organized crime groups.
I want to take this opportunity to talk about Mr. Wiebe, a man who stood out to me, although all of the testimonies were touching. Mr. Wiebe's 20-year-old son was murdered on January 5, 2003. It was a very violent murder planned out by young men aged 17 to 20.
This man was suffering a lot. Despite the fact that he and his wife were still suffering, he said that he had read that the Canadian government wanted to increase the budget for prisons by 27%, by $3.1 billion. He encouraged the committee to press the government to take 100% of this increase and re-allocate every cent into human rights and prevention. He said that we needed to save these kids before they became criminals. He said that his son would perhaps still be alive if his murderers had gotten some help.
What I saw and heard in Winnipeg regarding the situation with aboriginal children made it clear why these young people join street gangs.
Why, between 2005 and 2007, did Winnipeg police report more than 8,000 car thefts per year committed by members of street gangs, by 11- or 12-year old kids? These kids are living with poverty, unsanitary housing—I saw it myself—violence, drug use, high drop-out rates, parental abandonment, sexual violence, despair and lack of love. And nothing in this budget will meet these desperate needs.
What aboriginal children need is good food, decent housing, the opportunity to go to school, homes free from violence and drugs, and parents who are proud of their culture and their history. They do not need prison.
Aboriginals are already over-represented in federal penitentiaries in the prairie provinces as well as in juvenile facilities in the region. Like all children in Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver and Saskatoon, these children need greater solidarity. They need help to keep them from being recruited, used or killed by criminal gangs.
In my riding, in Quebec and in Winnipeg, I have seen compassionate, loving people who scrounge pennies every day to help children escape misery and to prevent them from being recruited by street gangs. They know that is the way to fight crime.
I get emotional about this because I care so deeply. This is part of my mission as a politician and as a human being.
I hope that the government will listen to Mr. Wiebe. I hope that it will quit showboating and realize that we cannot play games with people's lives. I also hope it will understand that the key to winning the fight against crime is making major investments in preventive measures targeting distressed children and youth everywhere in Quebec and Canada.
The most important thing is figuring out not how to put people in jail, but how to save our children. That should be our first concern. They are the ones who will eventually be looking after us. We must remember one thing. One day, our children will be looking after us. If we do not look after them, if we leave them to rot in jail, they will not do us any favours when it is their turn to look after us.