Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Kitchener Centre.
It gives me great pleasure today to rise in favour of the motion regarding Bill C-59, which we are hopeful will be passed into law as soon as possible.
Accelerated parole review has been the subject of a great deal of media coverage in recent months. It has also been the subject of a number of debates by parliamentarians and Canadians alike.
As hon. members know, the overwhelming consequences to the victims of white collar crimes, such as fraud, have become an issue all too familiar for Canadians and their families. Canadians have been quite clear and consistent in asking that the government take immediate action to protect the rights of the victims of these crimes and to make certain that offenders convicted of white collar crimes are held accountable for their actions. This would be possible with the passage of this bill.
It was not long ago that such crimes as fraud were considered to be victimless, as many of these crimes were depicted to occur against government, institutions and Canada's business community. This is no longer the view today. Canadians are continually being reminded of the devastating financial consequences that these crimes can bring to them and to people they know and love.
I believe I am speaking for most Canadians when I say that we can no longer continue to be harmed by these acts. Many lives are filled with the agony of financial ruin, and hopes for a brighter future are dashed. For many Canadian victims, this has become the reality as they most often never return to the position where they were before.
The current parole system in Canada allows for those incarcerated for white collar crimes to be eligible for release after serving one-sixth of their sentence.
Victims of crime deserve our support. This is why we have been given the opportunity to change this with Bill C-59.
I will speak briefly about our government's commitment to victims of crime and our ambitious agenda with regard to justice and tackling crime.
The crimes that our citizens are being faced with are very real. We, in turn, must commit to protecting their rights by listening and reacting. This has been one of our consistent priorities since we first were elected in 2006. I am happy to report that we have taken action in a number of areas.
The impact of crime on the lives of individuals, their households and the prosperity of Canadian communities is enormous. That is why we have taken a number of measures to ensure victims' rights are given the prominence and resources they deserve.
One of our first actions upon taking office in 2006 was to introduce the federal victims strategy. Since then, the government has committed over $50 million to this strategy.
An independent resource for victims, the Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime, was created as one of our first steps toward this endeavour.
Public Safety Canada manages the National Office for Victims, which plays a vital role in providing victims with an opportunity to voice their views in the corrections and conditional release process. It also does much more than that. It helps victims and their families by providing them with information and services they need during what is likely to be a very trying time in their lives.
The Policy Centre for Victim Issues, which is part of the Department of Justice, also plays a critical role in improving the experience of victims of crime in the criminal justice system. It helps victims and their families understand their role in the criminal justice system and the laws, services and assistance available to support them.
The policy centre ensures that the perspectives of victims will be fully considered when relevant federal laws and policies are developed. It also aims to increase awareness both within Canada and internationally about the needs of victims of crime and effective approaches to respond to those needs.
The online victim services directory found on the website of the Department of Justice is an example that our government has gone above and beyond to meet the needs of victims by helping them obtain the services they require.
The directory's numerous objectives include helping service providers, victims and individuals locate services for victims of crime across Canada and allowing victims to determine which services they may require. The directory also acts as a link between organizations and victims with a view toward helping all individuals access victim services. This is how we are ensuring that victims are being heard and that they remain a priority in the justice system.
As I mentioned earlier, our government has made tackling crime and protecting the safety of Canadians one of our chief priorities since being elected in 2006. As such, we have tabled and passed a number of pieces of legislation that are tough on crime with a view to making our streets and citizens safer.
We have passed two pieces of legislation in particular that speak directly to cracking down on violent gun crime and protecting Canadians from the very serious and increasingly complex issues of identity fraud and identity theft.
The government has also introduced legislation that allows victims to have a stronger voice in Canada's parole process. Our legislation will give victims the right not only to attend, but to speak at hearings presided over by the Parole Board of Canada. It will also offer more rigour and structure in the parole hearing process by, in most cases, precluding offenders from withdrawing their parole applications less than two weeks before a scheduled hearing.
Our government has delivered a bill that victims of crime have asked for, one which our government believes they deserve. Bill C-59 is another step in our government's long-standing belief that victims matter and that their voices should be heard.
It is important to note that victims of non-violent white collar crimes are often angry or disillusioned to learn that the perpetrators of those crimes are eligible for release relatively soon after they begin serving their sentence. In the current model of accelerated parole review, the Parole Board of Canada has limited discretion unless it believes that the offender in question is likely to commit a violent offence. In practical terms, that means someone who is convicted of a white collar crime is not assessed for parole using the same criteria as for other serious offenders. This is not just, in our government's view. We believe it does not properly serve victims of these often debilitating crimes.
I am sure all Canadians would agree that they would like to see the justice system prevail. Our government believes that Bill C-59 is an important step toward making that a reality.
The changes proposed by our government would put offenders who commit fraud and other white collar crimes on the same playing field as other offenders. Their eligibility for regular day parole review would commence six months prior to full parole eligibility, and full parole review after serving one-third of their sentence.
The message we are trying to send with this legislation is that offenders should be held accountable for their actions and that victims' interests should be heard.
It is imperative that we work together to ensure that the changes our government is proposing become law as soon as possible so that justice may be served.
In conclusion, I urge all hon. members to vote in favour of this motion, and by extension, stand up for the victims of white collar crime.