Mr. Speaker, it is my privilege to speak in favour of Bill C-10, the safe streets and communities act, during this report stage. I am particularly pleased to support the amendments that would strengthen this important bill.
Before speaking to the proposed amendments, I would like to put them into a larger context.
After 20 years of police work and working within the justice system, I often hear great frustration with our justice system. Even when violent criminals are put behind bars, they never seem to complete their sentences, and before we know it, they are back on the street committing crimes. Meanwhile, the rights of the victims are overlooked and forgotten.
There is something wrong with that picture. Canadians know it, and so does our government.
When we first took office, we identified greater safety and security for Canadians as a priority. For the past six years, we have moved decisively on our law and order agenda. We have invested substantial resources to help law enforcement agencies do their jobs better. We have passed laws to ensure that offenders do serious time for serious crime. We have supported crime prevention to help keep youth away from gangs, drugs and violence. We have pursued these efforts with one overarching goal: to make our streets and communities safer.
I am proud to say that Bill C-10 is a natural extension of these efforts. The proposed legislation before the House would go a long way toward protecting the most vulnerable of our society, as well as victims of terrorism. It would hold offenders and supporters of terrorism more accountable for their actions.
Let me highlight exactly how it would do that.
First, the bill would continue the work begun with the serious time for serious crime act. To that end, it would establish or increase mandatory minimums and increase maximum sentences for various serious offences, particularly those related to children and youth. Offenders convicted of child exploitation would no longer be eligible for a conditional sentence or house arrest, and drug dealers involved with organized crime who target youth could also expect harsher sentences.
As well, we not willing to wait until a crime is committed before taking action. Police would be given the tools to be proactive rather than reactive. The bill would require judges to consider putting limits on suspected or convicted child sex offenders. It would empower police to arrest, without a warrant, offenders who are in breach of the conditions of release. In other words, the bill would put the rights of victims ahead of the rights of offenders, which is where they should be.
In the same vein, Bill C-10 introduces new measures both to increase the accountability of offenders and to strengthen the voices of victims.
Under the new legislation, offenders would be required to have a correctional plan that laid out clear expectations of behaviour. This would include, for example, a requirement to meet court-ordered obligations to repay victims or to pay child support.
The legislation also introduces new penalties for inmates who display disrespectful or intimidating behaviour, whether it is directed at staff or at other inmates.
The bill would also make an important change in exchanging the word “pardon” for the phrase “record suspension”. We want to send a clear message that closing off a criminal record from the public eye does not forgive the offence. The offences committed by these individuals can often scar victims for a lifetime, and we believe it is important to recognize that fact.
What is more, we would make it impossible for certain offenders to apply for a record suspension. In the government's view, anyone convicted of a sexual offence related to a minor does not deserve a record suspension.
In the interests of public safety, child molesters, even after release, should carry the history of their offence with them for all time, not as an extra punishment but to protect the safety of the most vulnerable in society, our children.
By the same token, the bill would allow the minister to refuse an offender's transfer from a foreign prison back to Canada if there was any risk to the public and, in particular, to the safety of a child. Offenders should serve the time in the country in which they were convicted.
Victims are generally kept in the dark about an offender's life in prison. They do not know whether offenders are taking part in rehabilitation programs, if they have been absent from institutions temporarily, or if they are being transferred to a minimum security facility. Victims deserve more, plain and simple. Therefore, Bill C-10 would give them the right to take part in conditional release board meetings, and to be in the loop about the behaviour and handling of offenders.
I have spoken up until now about keeping our streets and communities safer from crime, but there are other risks and other types of victims. I am speaking, of course, about terrorism and its victims. Just as victims of crime deserve a greater voice, so too do victims of terrorism acts. Bill C-10 would allow victims to seek redress in the courts against the perpetrators of terrorism and their supporters. It would set in place a rigorous process for the listing of state sponsors of terrorism by the Government of Canada.
Our government is determined to do everything in its power to protect Canadians and make our streets and communities safer for all. To achieve that goal, we want to make this legislation as strong as possible. I am proud that the government passed four amendments at the committee stage and has introduced another at report stage. I would like to add my support to the amendment proposed today and to the two passed by committee pertaining to public safety.
The initial legislation proposed that victims should be able to sue foreign states for supporting terrorism. The government has proposed today that victims should also be able to sue foreign states for having directly committed an act of terrorism. I am proud to support this proposed amendment. I am equally pleased to support the two amendments related to public safety passed by the committee. The first would help lighten the burden on victims of terrorism, while the second would allow a court to hear a matter based solely on the plaintiff's Canadian citizenship or permanent residency.
I want to add my thanks to the committee members for their good work. I must add that for all the hours I sat there, they did an unbelievable job on both sides. In recognition of the committee's close scrutiny of the bill, I urge all members to join me in supporting these amendments. Together, we can make our streets and communities safer for all Canadians.