Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the chance to rise in support of the motion before us today which would help to ensure that we pass Bill C-59 into law in the most timely and expeditious way possible.
The issue of accelerated parole review has been raised and debated in this place, as well as in other venues, and in the media, for quite some time. All of us have heard about the devastating consequences that while collar crimes such as fraud can have on the lives of Canadians. All of us have heard from Canadians about the need to take action to ensure that white collar criminals are held to account for their actions and the need to stand up for the victims of their crimes. Canadians have been quite clear. They want us to take action now and they want us to take action quickly, which is what the motion today intends to do.
Just a few years ago, many people might have regarded crimes such as fraud as victimless crimes since they seem to be committed against large organizations, corporations or governments.
Today, things have changed. We are now increasingly seeing the human face of fraud. I think it is safe to say that many Canadians have been shocked and angered by the harms caused by these acts. Savings have been wiped out and lives have been ruined. For many victims, they can never be returned to the position they were in before the crime.
As we know, under the current system, white collar offenders can be released after as little as one-sixth of their sentence in prison for their crimes. Bill C-59 would give us all a chance to change this and to support Canadians who have become the victims of crime.
Helping victims of crime has always been at the heart of this government's public safety and justice agenda. Our government is committed to ensuring that their voices are heard and that their concerns are taken seriously. That is one of our highest priorities and why we have taken action on a number of fronts.
Crime places a heavy toll on individual victims, their families, communities and society at large. That is why we have taken action to ensure that the scales of justice are balanced to include victims. One way we did this was by committing $52 million over four years to enhance the federal victims strategy so that government could better meet the needs of victims.
As one of our first moves, we created the Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime as an independent resource for victims.
The National Office for Victims at Public Safety Canada is also working to give victims a greater voice in the corrections and conditional release process and assisting victims in getting access to the information and services that they might need.
The Policy Centre for Victim Issues at the Department of Justice is also helping the government better meet the needs of victims, for example, by giving them the resources to attend parole hearings and to seek help if they experience crime while abroad.
Our government is also going one step further in helping victims connect to the services they need with the online victim services directory, which is available on the website of the Department of Justice Canada. The directory lets victims search for appropriate agencies in their area according to the type of victimization they have experienced and the type of support they seek. Our hope is that it can help ease the burden on victims of crime who do not know where to turn or which services are available to them.
All of those measures help to bring victims front and centre in the justice system and to ensure that their voices are heard.
In addition, of course, our government has also introduced a wide range of legislation to crack down on crime, gun crimes, in particular.
As well, our government has passed legislation to help combat the complex, serious and growing problems of identity theft and identity fraud.
We have also ensured that victims have a greater say in this country's parole system by introducing legislation that, among other things, would enshrine in law a victim's right to attend and make statements at Parole Board of Canada hearings, while preventing offenders, in most cases, from withdrawing their parole applications 14 days or less before a hearing date.
Victims of crime have asked for these changes. And our government has delivered.
Bill C-59 builds on and strengthens this already impressive track record of standing up for victims.
Victims of white collar crimes, and of fraud in particular, have been dismayed, in many cases, to find out that the offenders who carry out these acts can be released so soon after they are sentenced. Unless the Parole Board of Canada has reasonable grounds to believe these offenders will commit a violent offence if released, it must automatically release them into the community under supervision. This means that in some cases a fraudster, for example, could be back on the streets early.
Such a criminal could be sentenced to 12 years, but actually released into the community on day parole in just 2 years and fully paroled in just 4 years. The status quo gives the Parole Board of Canada no discretion in dealing with these cases.
The test is whether an offender is likely to commit a violent offence. As a result, even if the Parole Board believes the offender is likely to commit another fraud, theft or drug offence, it is compelled to release him or her. This truly offends Canadians' sense of justice. It undermines their faith in our justice and corrections system. Victims and, indeed, all Canadians want to see justice carried out and sentences served. Bill C-59 would do that.
Bill C-59 would, first and foremost, do away with the current system's accelerated parole review, whereby offenders who commit non-violent crimes such as fraud can be released on day parole after serving as little as one-sixth of their sentence. Under the changes our government is proposing, offenders who commit fraud and other white collar crimes will be put on the same footing as other offenders. They will be eligible for regular day parole review six months prior to full parole eligibility and full parole review after serving one-third of their sentences. They will have to face the full consequences of their actions.
The message that we are sending with Bill C-59 is that if people commit the crime, they will do the time. We are saying with this legislation that the needs of victims are paramount. We are saying that their interests come first. We are saying that all of us remain committed to cracking down on crime and standing up for the rights of victims. That is what Canadians want. They want us to continue standing up for victims and to ensure that their voices are heard. They want us to continue to ensure that all offenders are held to account for their actions.
Most of all, Canadians want us to work together in the spirit of co-operation to take action now to ensure the changes our government is proposing are passed into law so victims of fraud and other white collar crimes can in fact see justice done.
I therefore urge all hon. members to support the motion before us today and to work with the government to ensure Bill C-59 receives speedy passage.