Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Surrey North for her Motion No. 514 on public safety and criminal records. She is a long-standing champion of the rights of victims and for trying to make our justice system a better functioning system. I want to congratulate her for her tireless work in this area. This particular motion deals with criminal records and it is certainly one that needs to be changed.
There are a number of issues with respect to, for example, the pardon system. We saw the situation of the hockey player, Mr. James, who received a pardon despite having victimized dozens of young boys for a long period of time. All Canadians were outraged that this individual received a pardon and we have seen other individuals who committed very serious crimes receive or are going to receive pardons.
The whole issue of pardons and records came out of the Criminal Records Act. It was done by Don Tolmie back in the 1960s. It was done in a well-meaning way but unfortunately, such things have not panned out as they should. As a result of that, we have seen that changes are necessary with respect to how we do that.
Back in 2000, the then government of Mr. Chrétien made a number of amendments to the Criminal Records Act, including changes requiring that applicants whose pardon applications had been refused must wait at least a year before reapplying, and automatically revoking pardons for anybody with new convictions. There are certain things that can be done to move forward in this area, including precluding individuals who commit serious, indictable offences from ever getting a pardon. It is offensive that this occurs and I think a lot of the public would wonder, as many of us did, how this could possibly happen.
Historically, the National Parole Board's hands have been tied. What it does is assess somebody, and if he or she has had an unblemished record for five years after the conviction, the National Parole Board is obliged to give that person a pardon. That is the system that we have.
Changing the system and providing the National Parole Board with the ability to refuse pardons for individuals who have committed violent offences, including sexual offences, is something that is welcome and certainly sends a very clear message that individuals who have committed these serious crimes will always have it on their records. As I said before, this is something that needs to be changed.
I would also draw attention to something that needs to change in terms of the RCMP.
There was a decision called the McNeil decision that came down through the courts, which in many ways put the police on trial. It actually puts disclosure obligations on the police officer for a wide variety of crimes, from DUIs all the way to homicide investigations. In other words, in a trial, the RCMP officers are put on trial, and long aspects of disclosure in terms of personal information on them have to be disclosed to the defence and the court. This to me is absolutely absurd. It is not the RCMP officer who is on trial. It is the person who is charged with the offence who is on trial.
The impact of this, of course, has been quite devastating because it has put a huge administrative burden on the RCMP in terms of quite extensive legal, human resources and administrative costs. This is not a small problem. It is a large problem and a large impediment to the ability of our police officers to do their jobs and implement the legal system that we have in our country.
As a result, it is causing an entanglement within our justice system. I would strongly encourage the government to take a look at this McNeil decision and introduce in this House changes to reverse it. In times of fiscal austerity and a significant difference between the job that our RCMP has to do and the resources it has, now it is being forced to pour huge amounts of money into large administrative costs that are not necessary in terms of being able to deliver the justice and protection that the Canadian public needs.
Today, one could safely say that the system we have really does not take into account the complexity of the charter of rights, the duty to account, and the constitutional ambiguity that surrounds the job that police officers engage in today. Their job keeps on changing and the legal obligations on them keep on changing, which makes it much more difficult for them to do their jobs. I would strongly encourage the government to look at this and implement changes that are desperately required to enable our police officers to do their jobs.
Some of us in the House are disappointed that in coming back to the House after three months working in our ridings, the long gun registry came to the forefront. All of us understand that changes have to happen. Chief Superintendent Cheliak and his team did an excellent job of changing the registry, changing the administrative burden that had been on the shoulders of individuals who owned long guns. Whatever has to happen in the future to make this better, I would encourage the government to work with us and people who own long guns to ensure that whatever other changes are required do happen to make this less of an onerous task on them.
Most of the gun owners, at least in my community, have actually said that they support the registry, that the changes that were made by the RCMP and that the capping of costs at $4 million a year they found to be a fair and reasonable trade-off, given the fact that all the major police groups in the country, from the RCMP to the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, the Canadian Police Association and others, have actually asked for this.
There also needs to be some mending of fences between individuals who live in rural areas and those who live in urban areas. This has caused a wedge between them and we need to do a better job of understanding that there has been misinformation which needs to be corrected. Some of the concerns of those who own long guns must be listened to, and whatever changes that are required to improve the system need to be done.
I want to compliment the member for Surrey North. There is an opportunity for us to work together to improve the efficiency of our justice system. One of the first things that can be done is to listen to our police officers. They labour under some very difficult administrative and legal obligations which actually pull them away from doing their duty, which is investigating those who allegedly commit crimes in our country.
Because of the administrative overlay that they have, valuable and limited resources are being taken away from the sharp end of policing in Canada and are buried in administrative costs. Taking police officers away from front line duties to sit at desks, filling out endless forms, is not effective, not useful, and can actually mar the implementation of our judicial system.
There are a lot of opportunities to listen to the RCMP and other police forces across the country. Personally, I do not think they are being listened to right now in many cases. They have a lot of superb solutions that can enable us to achieve a fair and effective judicial system, but they are the ones on the front line. They are the ones who can provide some very innovative solutions and they ought to be listened to.
The government needs to understand there are things it can do on the judicial side that are important. The government did not use a good chunk of the crime prevention moneys. It has removed quite significantly moneys for victims. Moneys have been cut, which is remarkable, for victims rights groups. I would ask the government to reinstate those moneys.
There are two very powerful things the government could do to reduce crime. An early learning head start program will reduce crime by 40% to 50%. Changing the drug laws in our country would also significantly reduce crime because the current prohibition puts money into the hands of organized crime gangs in our country.
There are many fact-based solutions the government could implement to improve our judicial system and make our country a safer place. I would strongly encourage it to implement those solutions.