Mr. Speaker, I appreciate this opportunity to speak in support of Bill C-10, legislation that would further strengthens our government's already impressive track record of keeping our streets and communities safe.
The people of Mississauga South tell me every day, in letters, phone calls, as well as visits to my office, that they want this government to crack down on crime.
The legislation before us today builds on this work which Canadians have given us a strong mandate to continue, the work of that impressive track record.
One very important component of our government's efforts to build safer streets and communities involves ongoing reforms to help ensure the system of corrections in this country actually works to correct offenders. I would therefore like to focus my remarks on this very important area.
I will begin with the victims of crime because, when it comes to our corrections system, they deserve to have their interests and concerns heard and know that their government is listening.
The current act clearly recognizes that victims of crime have an interest in the correctional process and yet victims and their advocates have expressed dissatisfaction with the current law. They have consistently called for improvements that would ensure a stronger voice in the process. This government has heard their concerns. We have listened and now we are acting on those concerns.
As it stands now, victims sometimes travel long distances to attend parole hearings, but if offenders withdraw their participation, the hearing could be cancelled at the last minute. This creates both a financial and emotional burden for victims.
The bill would remove the ability of offenders to cancel their parole hearings less than two weeks in advance, and victims would have the right to ask why the offender has waived that parole hearing. These measures would go a long way to preserving peace of mind for victims.
Bill C-10 would also enshrine in law a victim's right to attend and make statements at parole hearings. In addition, it would enable victims to request relevant information about an offender's time in custody, including reasons for transfer between institutions, or why they have been granted temporary absence and participation in their correctional plan.
Additionally, the Corrections and Conditional Release Act would be amended to expand the information that may be disclosed to victims by CSC and the Parole Board of Canada. This includes providing information on the reason or reasons for offender transfers with, whenever possible, advance notice of transfers to minimum security institutions; disclosing information on offender program participation and any convictions for serious disciplinary offences; and providing guardians and caregivers of dependants of victims who are deceased, ill or otherwise incapacitated with the same information that victims themselves can receive. Such changes would help to ensure that the interests of victims are front and centre.
The second major area of reform relates to the responsibility and accountability of offenders. Additionally, the Corrections and Conditional Release Act would be amended to allow for the establishment of incentive measures designed to promote offender participation in their correctional plan.
A successful transition to the community does not happen by accident or through wishful thinking. It demands that offenders play an active role in their rehabilitation. That is why the bill before the House stresses that rehabilitation is a shared responsibility between offenders and Correctional Service Canada.
Offenders would be expected to respect others, obey the rules and actively participate in fulfilling the goals of their correctional plans. To that end, each correctional plan would set out expectations for behaviour, participation in any programs and fulfilment of any court ordered financial obligations.
The third area of reform relates to the management of offenders and their re-integration into the community. In short, we need to do better so that we better protect law-abiding Canadians in all conditional release decisions. To that end, this legislation proposes to give police the power to arrest without warrant any offender who appears to be in breach of his or her release conditions.
Finally, the bill would automatically suspend the parole or statutory release of offenders who receive a new custodial sentence.
In the final area of reform, Bill C-10 would modernize the system of discipline in federal penitentiaries. Specifically, it would create in law new penalties for breaking rules, such as disrespectful, intimidating or assaultive behaviour, including throwing bodily substances. It would also restrict visits for inmates who have been segregated for serious disciplinary offences.
As we have heard, Bill C-10 proposes several fundamental reforms to the corrections and conditional release system to help ensure that our correctional system is actually correcting offenders.
The amendments that our Conservative government is proposing would enhance offender responsibility and accountability and strengthen the management of offenders during their incarceration and conditional release. These amendments would also modernize the system of disciplinary sanctions in federal correctional facilities and give victims the opportunity to request more information about the offender who has harmed them. All in all, the amendments would reinforce and build on the work already under way to strengthen the corrections and conditional release system.
Today we know that many of the offenders arriving in Canada's correctional system also arrive with histories of violent offences. More offenders than ever have gang or organized crime affiliations, and nearly four out of five now arrive at a federal institution with a serious abuse problem. In addition, an increasing number of offenders have serious mental health issues. Such changes in the offender population require a new approach to corrections and conditional release. That is why the government is moving forward with the proposals in Bill C-10.
The reforms being proposed would better serve victims by increasing the information that may be shared with them and guaranteeing their right to be heard at parole hearings. The proposed reforms would also help ensure that offenders are more accountable for their actions and so that their rehabilitation will be more effective.
These measures would also modernize the disciplinary system for inmates.
Further controls for offenders under community supervision are also being introduced.
I urge all members of the House to give their unconditional support for the bill for the sake of offenders who must take more responsibility for a successful transition into the community. I urge all hon. members to support Bill C-10 for the sake of crime victims who deserve a greater voice in the correctional system. I urge them to support the legislation before us today for the sake of corrections officers who have a right to a safe work environment.
I urge all hon. members to support this legislation for the sake of all Canadians. The protection of society is our top priority. Canadians deserve to feel safe in their homes and in their communities. Victims deserve to be treated with respect, as do the guards in our institutions. Offenders must be prepared to take more responsibility for their conduct and pay the price if they break the rules.