Mr. Speaker, I have been able to squeeze my name in among many others so that I can speak to Bill C-10 and talk about what is good about it as well as all the concerns we have about it. I am glad that I was able to get in, given the fact that we have closure before us.
Just over a week ago the Minister of Justice introduced his highly politicized Bill C-10. Now, after only a couple of hours of debate, the government has moved to shut down democratic discussion on the bill, in the very House of democracy.
This bill is actually nine previous bills jumbled together in a way that must make U.S. Republicans green with envy. Let us imagine nine bills going through with no debate. Yes, we are supportive of parts of those nine bills, but to put them forward in one huge bill and expect us to pass them in less than the two weeks that we have been in this House is a real insult to democracy and an insult to all of us as parliamentarians here to do a job. With some of it we have no problem, but to turn around and have it proceeding in such a short period of time without full debate and input from all of us is a true disservice.
If I were to listen to the government, it would seem that crime is rampant and out of control in the cities, towns, villages and hamlets of Canada. The government, perched on its white horse, says it is prepared to ride to our rescue. What does that actually mean in real legislation?
Despite the rhetoric and the fearmongering from our friends across the way, which is something we are all guilty of in this House on various pieces of legislation, Statistics Canada seems to have a different take when it comes to crime rates.
In a report released earlier this year, Statistics Canada stated that police-reported crime reached its lowest levels since the early 1970s. It goes on to say that the police-reported crime rate, which measures the overall volume of crime, continued to decline right up until last year. In fact, last year it was down 5%, reaching its lowest level since 1973, which is something we are all thrilled about. We are pleased that it has gone down to that extent.
Would we like to wipe it out altogether? Of course we would, but we also have to be practical. There are various issues here that have to be addressed as we all try to reduce crime in this country. It is as low as it is as a result of the many crime prevention programs introduced through the Liberal years that we were here.
That same Statistics Canada report says that violent crime is at its lowest since 1999. Last year both the volume and severity of violent crime fell 3% from the previous year, while the decline in the violent crime severity index was more notably down 6%.
This is the fourth straight year when there has been a decline in the violent crime severity index, and it is the largest drop in more than a decade.
Overall, violent crimes accounted for just one in five offences. Among the violence crimes that saw a significant decline were attempted murder, down 14%; homicide, down 10%; robbery, down 7%; and serious assault, down 5%.
That is where we all want to see it, going down, which is what raises the question of why we have Bill C-10 bundled up with nine pieces of legislation and then rushed through this parliamentary session.
We know that Bill C-10 is not on the table because of actual evidence. There has been no evidence presented to tell us exactly why it is important for us to cram this through and why we cannot have full debate through the House and through committee stages. The Conservatives want to scare people by painting a picture of crime that is clearly, in their opinion, out of control, because it fits the ideology of the Republicans and of the Conservative government.
I am prepared, as are many of my colleagues, to support measures that actually tackle real crime with balance and focus. Bill C-10 is not that.
For example, as my colleague just mentioned, this legislation suggests minimum penalties for certain drug crimes that are harsher than those for certain sexually driven crimes involving children. We have to look at both of those and try to see where there is a balance. I would suspect that any crime involving children and sexual activity would have the harshest of penalties applied.
Instead there seems to be a difference in how that would be applied. We do not support the idea of someone growing marijuana plants either, but it certainly should not have a stricter penalty, or at least both of them should be at the appropriate level. If we are truly talking about protecting the vulnerable, we have to do far more than what is written in Bill C-10.
The real challenge ahead of us is that the bill proposes to spend billions of dollars on a crime and punishment agenda that will do little or nothing to tackle crime and punishment. Despite the billions of dollars being spent on Bill C-10, it fails the real issues of tackling poverty, homelessness, financial illiteracy, income security, and education. Almost 99% of what we see in the crime agenda is a result of those issues. No job, no education, homelessness, drugs and mental illness are usually the key issues that get people into those crime situations. Experts tell us that any real effort to prevent crime must start with an effort to stamp out hopelessness and fear.
It appears as though Bill C-10 is covered with the fingerprints of U.S. Republicans. The Americans have one of the highest rates of incarceration on the planet, and they are starting to see that a system based only on punishment is a failure. As much as it might make us feel good to lock people up, the reality is that it does not appear to work in all of the cases.
Let me quote from a recent U.S. editorial with regard to crime and prisons. It states:
California spends more money on prisons than on higher education. The governor is right--we've got it backwards and it's time to reverse course.
Only 68% of our high school students are graduating. Yet we pay prison guards substantially more than teachers.
Fear of crime led us to vote for long prison terms and the three strikes law. We didn't intend to spend $4 billion more on prisons than colleges....
The less educated our workforce...the more we feed the prisons.
It's time to admit our mistakes and make tough decisions. By pumping so much money into prisons, we're starving education. We cannot afford the consequences.
That was a quote from an editorial in a newspaper in the United States, and it spells out exactly the direction we are going.
We are pleading with the government not to go down that route. Let us look at this. Let us take some time to make sure that Bill C-10 goes in the right direction. Let it go to committee and let it have full hearings and a full debate. We all want to ensure safety on our streets and in our communities. No one thinks any differently, but we really have our heads in the sand if we think that bundling it all up and pretending it is going to solve all the problems is really going to make that happen.
That is not what we want, and I am sure none of the other members in the House want it. Locking someone up forever does not eliminate crime. Locking someone up forever does not make us any safer. Locking someone up does not help those who have been victimized by criminals either. Locking someone up forever is an after-the-fact system that does little to address the root causes of crime.
I believe we can do better. We can tackle poverty, homelessness and joblessness. We can make our streets safer for our children and families. We can replace fear with hope, but Bill C-10 is not the way to do this.
The Conservatives cite their majority in the House as a justification for why the bill is worth passing. That is not a valid reason. On this side of the House we are willing to work with the government to pass a crime bill that strikes at the root causes of crime, helps victims get back on their feet and punishes offenders appropriately for their misdeeds.
Bill C-10 ignores evidence and does not produce any facts. It creates an illusion that crime is out of control and it fails to provide any information on the real costs of implementation. Bill C-10 does not reflect the values of Canadians as a smart, caring society, and it would do nothing to address crime in this country.
Bill C-10 is not an omnibus crime bill, it is an ominous crime bill, because it signals a shift toward an approach to crime that has failed in places like the United States. If we adopt Bill C-10 as it is, we are adopting a failed approach.
I, for one, have grave concerns with not only the financial impact, but the real agenda is to make our communities and our streets safer. Bill C-10 has some merit in some parts, and there are areas we would like to support, but clearly work has to be done.