Mr. Speaker, we are told that the safe streets and communities act will harden criminals and increase recidivism, yet experts agree that rehabilitation strategies work. Many of these programs occur within the correctional environment and the length of a sanction should be proportional to the offence, and must consider the victims of crime who are all too often ignored.
The bill has many facets designed to protect the rights of victims by enshrining a victim's right to participate in parole hearings and address inmate accountability. At the same time, the bill will allow judges to defer sanctions for offenders enrolled in drug and alcohol treatment programs. Our government continues to invest in prevention strategies which are critical in ensuring safe streets and communities.
A key pillar of our national anti-drug strategy is prevention and treatment for those with drug dependencies. Since 2007 the health portfolio has invested $577 million over five years for the strategy's prevention, treatment and enforcement activities.
Our government has made significant treatment investments to strengthen existing treatment programs through the treatment action plan. Communities can celebrate funded health promotion and prevention projects for youth through the drug strategy community initiatives fund with over 100 approved projects across Canada. This represents approximately $40 million in multi-year community based investments. The national crime prevention strategy's priorities include: addressing early risk factors among vulnerable children, youth and young adults; preventing recidivism among high risk offenders; fostering crime prevention in aboriginal and northern communities; and preventing youth gang and drug-related crime. It also includes the SNAP Girls Connection program.
All too often, the message of media fixates on the silos of government. When one looks across departments, there are tremendous and well-balanced approaches to safer streets and communities.
We continue to hear the NDP bring up Texas. I fundamentally disagree with any comparison between the Canadian correctional system and the Texas model. Texas has a population nearly equivalent to Canada in its state alone, yet it incarcerates its citizens at a rate five times higher than Canada.
The NDP quoted a recent article, but experts from Texas failed to mention that its relative crime rate has actually gone up for offences of murder, forceable rape, robbery and burglary, despite its enlightened approach to crime and sanctions. Texas still boasts the death penalty and has eliminated last meal rights for the condemned. Texas crime rates have fluctuated up and down since 1960 and will continue to do so. Texans will certainly be left scratching their cowboy hats when their rates continue to fluctuate over time. I encourage members opposite when discussing Canadian realities to remember these facts and to please not mess with Texas.
In respect to marijuana grow operations, there has been a tremendous amount of fearmongering and misinformation around this aspect of the bill. First, one must consider the volume and value six plants of marijuana can create. The proliferation of the idea that it is just six plants, meaning no harm can be caused, is both irresponsible and wrong. Once again, there is failure on the part of critics to consider victims and innocent people.
Take for example drug endangered children. Carbon dioxide enhances plant growth, but poses serious health risks to humans. High concentrations can displace oxygen in the air, resulting in oxygen deficiency, combined with effects of carbon dioxide toxicity. Grow operations contain high levels of humidity and are prone to build-up of various moulds which can damage human health, causing aggravating immunological diseases such as hay fever allergies, asthma, infections, and even cancer. The likelihood of a house fire is 24 times greater in a home with a grow operation compared to an ordinary household.
Drug endangered children are at greater risk of neglect, domestic violence, pre and postnatal alcohol abstinence syndrome, and sexual abuse. Grow operations are often linked to criminal activity and organized crime. The environment is also very high risk for physical assault, home invasions, gang violence and homicides. Increasing liberal attitudes toward marijuana has led to an increase in the number of child neglect and abuse cases that can be directly attributed to marijuana, according to Lori Moriarty at the Stafford conference.
There is also a misnomer that this bill creates new criminals, when in fact all of the offences dealt with are criminal, and our government is committed to dealing with the most reprehensible crimes in our society. One is protecting children from sexual predators.
One is protecting children from sexual predators. This point I find particularly positive considering the recent RCMP intelligence report, which stated, “The availability of child sexual exploitation material for purchase, over the Internet, remains a problem”.
Penalties for organized drug crime and protecting the public from violent and repeat young offenders are others. I emphasize the words “violent” and “repeat”.
Another is preventing trafficking abuse and exploitation of vulnerable immigrants.
Corrections Canada applauds the bill's efforts to address inmate accountability, responsibility and management under the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, which protects and encourages inmates engaged in a rehabilitation program.
On the topic of new prisons, initial projections of population increases from past legislation has not been realized. There is no link between new prisons and this legislation. New prisons are required to reflect the rehabilitative and corrective model essential to achieving objectives of health, hope and healing of inmates.
The opposition criticizes new prisons yet presses for more programming and single cells for inmates. It fails to realize the intrinsic link between the building of new correctional facilities with cleaner, safer environments with more room and controls in order to allow staff and inmates the best possible environment to engage in rehabilitative programs.
The Yukon corrections model is an excellent example of moving from a close supervision model to a direct supervision model, which will be greatly enhanced with the move to its new correctional facility in 2012.
When one considers the cost of correctional facilities in housing offenders, it must be remembered that the tangible costs of crime on victims is much higher, 80% of which is borne by the victims themselves. The Canadian Bar Association stated:
This bill will do nothing to improve that state of affairs, but, through its overreach and overreaction to imaginary problems, Bill C-10 could easily make it worse. It could eventually create the very problems it’s supposed to solve.
If there are imaginary problems, then we will not see the contradictory message it is suggesting of an increased prison population as there will not be imaginary criminals, imaginary trials, and imaginary sentences that would have such a result.
We do know that the problems are real and I would invite the Canadian Bar Association to write to the community of Citadel, which was devastated when an illegal grow operation caught on fire and damaged seven neighbouring homes. It should also write to the province of Alberta, where the ALERT organization dismantled 200 grow operations in Calgary, seizing nearly 70,000 plants. Of those grow operation locations, 151 were unfit for human habitation. In 2011, almost 46,000 plants worth $56.3 million has been taken off the streets of that province. That is not imaginary.
According to a justice department study, only one in every six individuals convicted of running a grow operation in B.C., Alberta and Ontario, between 1997 and 2005 actually served time in prison.
The killer of RCMP officer Dennis Strongquill, Laurie Ann Bell, was an impulsive drug-addicted alcoholic whose contempt for the courts had shown little remorse or understanding for the impact of her crime. According to National Parole Board records, whose hands were tied under the current legislation, she was released after serving less than seven years. Corporal Brian Auger, Strongquill's former partner, was not told of Bell's impending release. “Nobody ever spoke to me”, he said. “They should maybe talk to the people that were involved and get a better idea or understanding as to what the victim goes through.”
Bill C-10 will do just that and enshrine victim participation in Parole Board hearings and keep victims better informed about the behaviour and handling of offenders.
Perhaps the Canadian Bar Association and the NDP would like to reaffirm their positions to Corporal Auger and Dennis Strongquill's family that our government is reacting to imaginary problems.
Under this government, we have another 1,000 RCMP officers on the front line and we have invested $400 million to help the provinces and territories recruit more police officers.
The 9/11 attacks claimed 3,000 people including Canadians. The 2002 Bali bombing attack was the deadliest attack in the history of Indonesia. That killed Canadians as well. Were these imaginary problems?
On a personal level, I have engaged youth in the communities to deliver teamwork, leadership, health and anti-bullying workshops which have engaged youth and community leaders, and increased self-esteem in both the boys and girls who have participated. This demonstrates what we can do as individuals to raise a respectful, healthy, law-abiding community.
Therefore, when we step outside the silos we create and see the bigger picture beyond the body of legislation, our government is achieving the right balance between victims' rights, crime prevention and rehabilitation for a better Canada.