Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Abbotsford.
I am proud to have the opportunity to join this debate and offer my support for Bill C-59. I will indicate in my comments why the bill needs to be passed expeditiously not only by the House but also by the Senate.
As we have heard, the legislation before us today would do away with the part of the parole system in our country, which gives some offenders an opportunity for early release because they are first-time non-violent offenders. Nevertheless, they are serious offenders.
The legislation would do away with a system that sends a message to people who commit fraud or steal millions of dollars from innocent Canadians that the seriousness of their crimes is not on par with those who commit violent acts. This adds insult to injury for those hard-working Canadian families that have lost everything in an investment fraud or who have seen their entire life savings wiped out and their relationships and families torn apart in the aftermath.
We need to change the system so the time fits the crime. The legislation before us today will ensure that offenders will not have expedited access to day parole or parole. They will become eligible for parole at the same point and under the same criteria as all other offenders. It means that offenders who prey on law-abiding Canadians and wipe out their hard-earned savings will serve the appropriate time in custody for the severity of the crime to which they have been convicted. That is what Canadians want. It is what this government is delivering.
Since we were first elected in 2006, our government has been very clear that cracking down on crime is one of our top priorities. That means all types of crime. We have listened to Canadians who have told us that they are tired of not feeling safe in their own homes and communities. We have listened to stakeholders and to law enforcement groups that have asked us time and time again to give them the resources they need to perform their jobs. We have listened to victims who have told us that their voices also need to be heard. That is why we have taken action over the last five years on a number of fronts to build safer communities and to stand up for victims.
We have introduced legislation to crack down on organized crime and drugs by imposing mandatory jail time for people involved in serious drug crimes. We have introduced, which has been passed by Parliament, legislation that automatically views murders connected to organized crime as first degree murders.
We have introduced, which has been passed Parliament, legislation to tackle drive-by shootings and other intentional shootings that involve a reckless disregard for the life and safety of others. As well, we have further protected police officers and peace officers.
We have introduced legislation, which has been passed by Parliament, to ensure that individuals who are found guilty of a crime will serve a sentence that reflects the severity of that crime by limiting the amount of credit they will receive for time served in pretrial and pre-sentence custody.
We have also taken action to provide the police resources in our community. We have hired over 1,000 new RCMP officers. We said that we would provide funding for the provinces and territories, allowing them to hiring additional police officers, and have delivered on that commitment.
We have also given police forces more of the tools they need to do their jobs by passing legislation to strengthen the National Sex Offender Registry and the National DNA Data Bank. As well, we have introduced measures to support the ability of our law enforcement community to combat crime in the face of rapidly evolving communication technologies.
I am also proud of the fact our government has passed tough legislation to give police officers and the courts the added powers they require to fight identity theft, a major type of fraud which, by some estimates, robs Canadians of millions of dollars annually.
Hon. members will also know that our government has introduced legislation to get tough on all types of fraud by imposing mandatory minimum sentences of two years for fraud over $1 million and requiring the courts to consider restitution orders as part of the sentencing process.
We have already done a lot to make our streets and communities safer and to ensure that offenders are dealt with appropriately. However, we can, we will and we must do more.
Canadians are asking us to make changes to a justice system that has yet to find the right balance between the rights of offenders and the rights of law-abiding citizens. They want individuals who are found guilty of crimes to serve a sentence that reflects the severity of those crimes. Bill C-C-59 is all about that.
Bill C-59 would help ensure that individuals who committed non-violent or white-collar crimes could not get out of prison after serving just a small fraction of their sentence.
I am certain hon. members have heard the many stories of Canadians who have lost their entire life savings in massive fraud scams. It is hard to imagine how traumatic it must be for an individual to wake up one day and realize that his or her lifetime investments have completely evaporated.
It is also impossible to imagine how disappointed and frustrated these same individuals must be when a few years later they hear that the person who was convicted of fraud is allowed to apply for parole after serving only a small portion of his or her sentence. In many circumstances, the Parole Board of Canada has little choice but to authorize parole, unless there is a reason to believe the individual may commit a violent or drug-related offence once released.
This legislation would set things right and ensure that there would be justice for all Canadians who have been victims of crime. The proposed amendments abolish accelerated parole review, which currently grants offenders eligibility for day parole after serving only one-sixth of their sentences and full parole after serving one-third of their sentences.
Under the reforms that our government is proposing through Bill C-59, individuals who commit crimes such as fraud will be treated the same way as those who commit serious violent crimes. These so-called white-collar offenders would 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.
What is more, the test for parole will no longer be whether they are likely to commit a violent offence. Like other offenders, they will qualify for parole only if the Parole Board of Canada is convinced during a face-to-face hearing that they do not present an undue risk of committing any type of crime, including fraud.
I point out that the proposed amendments in this legislation are in line with the recommendations found in the 2007 report of the Correctional Service Canada's independent review panel. In its report, “A Roadmap to Strengthening Public Safety”, it made 109 recommendations, including that the government abolish accelerated parole review.
I would like to quote from the executive summary of that report, which states:
The Panel is of the opinion that presumptive release is a key disincentive to offender accountability and is therefore recommending that Statutory Release and Accelerated Parole Review be abolished and replaced with an earned parole system.
Our government agrees with this panel's conclusion that accelerated parole review can be counterproductive. That is why the government has introduced Bill C-59. The reforms that our government is proposing today will mean that white-collar offenders will now get the prison time that their crimes warrant.
We are taking this stand on behalf of all Canadians who want the rights of law-abiding citizens properly balanced with the rights of offenders. We are taking a stand on behalf of everyone who wants action on crime now . That is what we intend to deliver, now and in the coming weeks and months, as we continue to work to improve legislation on matters affecting the safety and security of all Canadians.