Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to speak to Bill C-16.
First, I was proud to be part of the justice committee when we limited Bill C-9. We took out minor offences, where people should not always be incarcerated because it would make society less safe. There were some ridiculous provisions in that bill. The opposition made it far more sensible.
As the members have heard all afternoon, I have asked simple questions about the bill. A bill is usually brought in when there is a big outrage and a problem. I have asked every member of the government to give me examples of how it is not working and why we need to make this change. There was no answer from the parliamentary secretary, or the minister or any member who has spoken,
A member from the Bloc has already said that there are hundreds and thousands of examples of conditional sentencing having worked for some of the minor offences in the bill. No one is arguing that in some of the serious offences it should not be allowed. However, for some of the minor offences, would it be possible to do that? There is no answer and no example.
The second question I have asked is if conditional sentences have been proven by the stats to be far more successful in reducing recidivism, when people get out, they do not commit other crimes, when it makes victims and other Canadians much safer, why would we change that? Why would we limit it in the less serious examples?
A member mentioned earlier that these conditional sentences were not done just off the cuff. Average research shows 11 to 13 reasons for the case from a judge, a judge who has a lifetime of experience in the criminal justice system, who understands the situation, who understands what will work and what will make Canadians safer. Only then do they oppose those sentences.
Why can the Conservatives not come up with examples? Perhaps it is because judges who have this lifetime experience do not give out conditional sentences. In a lot of cases, they make wise decisions and do not give them in serious situations, which would be covered in this bill. Just because the bill would prohibit them from giving out conditional sentences does not mean that they give them out now.
For a lot of the serious crimes, judges would never give out conditional sentences. This is one of the reasons why people are having such a hard time coming up with as many examples as there are for success stories.
I would encourage people to attend the restorative justice organization of the city of Ottawa to hear the success stories, or to read Professor Doob's book. I would challenge any Conservative member who does not believe in conditional sentencing to do that and then come back and say that he or she does not believe in them. There have been huge benefits to society, huge protection of Canadians and victims, in some of the cases where conditional sentences have been applied.
The members have brought forward a lack of understanding. In some of the Conservative speeches, it is very true. There is a lack of understanding of how it works. One Conservative member suggested that the people on conditional sentences just watched TV. In jail they get to watch a lot of TV as well. That is not all that is involved in a conditional sentence. This is not the only reason it turns out to be successful.
There are a number of other conditions of rehabilitation, conditions that cannot be provided on probation, that help. They could be tougher on the criminal and certainly would give him or her a much better chance of not recommitting an offence. It makes society much safer for the victims so they are not re-victimized. It makes it much safer for Canadians if criminals do not reoffend.
The vast majority of offenders get out. When they get out, we need a way to ensure they are unlikely to reoffend, which will keep all of us safe. They need the investment in rehabilitation.
When I go into the prisons, prisoners say that they are not getting the anger management they need. They are not getting the drug rehabilitation programs they need. They are not given the re-education they need to get out and to be successful in society, which would keep everyone much safer.
As some members alluded to at the beginning of this debate, we need to invest in the root causes of crime and the prevention of crime. Some of the minor crimes, as people have mentioned, are committed under bad circumstances or the individual came from a bad family situation. The person should not be put in jail as a result. Learning the background and finding out the cause of those crimes could stop the situation before it came to any kind of sentence.
The government could continue to invest in the aboriginal justice strategy. To the government's credit, it has extended the funding for a couple of years, but we wanted it to be made permanent. Under that system people working in restorative justice counsel individuals and they have a tremendous success rate in reducing recidivism and, in a number of cases, have eliminated it. It is almost like not approving funding for judges every two years. This strategy should be made permanent. The government could certainly continue investing in it.
I want to talk a bit about the policy process or the way the government comes up with the laws that I have seen when I was on the justice committee. Bill C-9 was just one of them.
When we had hearings in Toronto we were told by the public that the system had been turned upside down. The normal policy development process involves experts. In this case it involved experts from the justice department, people who have spent a good part of their lives finding out how to make Canadians safer by bringing in effective laws.
In this particular case, we were told that the direction came from the top. It avoided all the evidence and the science. It was not evidence-based legislation. The experts told us what would actually reduce crime and make people safer. However, for whatever reason, the government brought in totally ineffective laws that would endanger Canadians even more. Witness after witness, the experts at committee, made the same case. That is why some of these laws, like Bill C-9, were overturned, eliminated or put into a more reasonable and rational shape.
We would like this bill to go to committee in order to limit the situation to those cases where a conditional sentence would actually make sense. We have heard some examples today of some cases that should be in the bill and some that should not but that type of debate will be had at committee.
Hopefully at committee the government members, who will have had another couple of years of experience, will now listen more carefully to the experts, listen to what is working and what is not and we can come to a compromise and come up with a bill that will make Canadians safer by using the effective restorative justice processes, new processes compared to the thousands of years of failure by incarceration resulting in a number of people becoming worse off after jail and making society less safe.
One of the points made by the opposition, which the experts have proven to be another fallacy, is that this change would act as a deterrent. This is not what most criminals are thinking about. Making a change like this would not be a deterrent. Evidence has proven that deterrence is the perception of getting caught. If we want to have deterrents for these crimes then we would increase our police force, increase monitoring and increase the understanding that criminals will get caught. It is not by changing sentences in the ways being suggested in this legislation.
Judges need to make the right decisions but by limiting their options there will be more probation and suspended sentences, which actually will make society a more dangerous place. In those circumstances, one cannot add the same conditions. As I said earlier, conditional sentences have a number of conditions that can be put on offenders to ensure they do not reoffend, that they are not just sitting in cells learning more crime but actually being rehabilitated. That would not occur in some cases where judges' options are limited. They would not be able to do that.
People are unaware, which is partly the problem for all of us. There are some success stories and stories of difficult conditions imposed in conditional sentences. There are success stories of restorative justice here in Ottawa. From the society in Ottawa all the way to my riding, the farthest riding in the country, there are great success stories in restorative justice. We need to ensure that when we create a bill like this, we do not throw out the baby with the bathwater, that we do not throw out the good success stories in an attempt to limit certain situations, which, as I said, we all agree need to be limited as to when certain types of sentences can be provided.
If we want judges to have the best chance of making society safer, they need as many tools available to them as possible. They are the ones who listen to the evidence, understand the situations people come from, understand the circumstances of the crime and understand what caused it. They are the ones who understand, with a lifetime of experience in the criminal justice system, what would be most successful when dealing with a particular person, a particular offence and to make it safer for all of us. To do that, they need the tools. Why would we as parliamentarians want to limit the number of tools available to them to make the wisest decisions? In some cases, they will use this tool and another tool. Why would we want to limit the tools so there are less successful outcomes in the criminal justice system?